A few years ago, after a scroll through Instagram, I decided I was going to become a gardener. Or at least I was going to plant some things and weed them and water them and that would (probably) make me a gardener.
Never mind that I don’t care much about plants. Never mind that my thumb is definitely brown. Never mind that I don’t even have a houseplant to my name. (If a 30-something woman in the suburbs doesn’t own a houseplant, does she even exist?) Never mind the few times we’d subscribed to CSA boxes and I low-key hated it because I am a Meal Planner to the nth degree and getting a random box of food every week threw me in all the ways. (Especially when the box was filled with zucchini which is The Worst Vegetable Ever.)
Never mind all of that.
It’s going to be fun for the kids! I thought. They’ll learn things! It’s science!
My aunt had given me some old planters which were sitting in our garage, collecting dust and spider webs. I hauled them out, hosed them down, and dragged the kids to the nursery a couple of miles down the road. Two three-year-olds and a one-year-old and me, who had not much more of an idea of what I was doing than they did. We wandered up and down the aisles as I loaded our cart with carrots and onions, broccoli and basil. I remembered potting soil after I was in the checkout line, then stood in front of the bags wondering both how much I needed and if I could lift them. Then back to the checkout line where the one-year-old started to fuss over being trapped in a cart and how boring this all was.
An hour and well over $100 later, I loaded up the minivan with children and seedlings and hauled them home.
I filled the three planters with dirt and didn’t know until later that I should worry about things like “spacing.” My three-year-olds fought over watering the plants. I had to be with them every second so the plants didn’t drown. (Also so they didn’t turn the hose on each other.) I had to watch the one-year-old so he didn’t preemptively “harvest” any and everything.
After a few weeks, the plants sprouted flowers and it felt like success. Look at me, I thought, Getting plants to grow and stuff.
I continued to water and monitor our plants’ progress. The broccoli was getting tall and the bell peppers were tiny baby buds. Then we went on vacation for several days in July. It was hot: in the 80s approaching 90 every day and sunny.
It was perfect for our lakeside vacation. It was not perfect for plants.
I remembered one day as I lay with a book and a frozen drink in a lawn chair next to the sparkling lake. I sat up suddenly and grabbed my phone to text my neighbor, “Hey! Could you or one of your girls run over and water my planters today and tomorrow before we get home?? I completely forgot about them. THANK YOU!!!”
But the damage had been done. I lost one whole planter to that bout of forgetfulness. (Good-bye potatoes and bell peppers.)
By August, we’d harvested a few carrots and some small-ish onions (see: the importance of spacing). The broccoli flowered over and over again but for reasons unknown to me, it never did grow into anything to harvest. It was admittedly a delight to walk outside and grab fresh baby lettuces to make a salad or some basil to whip up homemade pesto. The twins posed for a few adorable photos with our harvest, proud of pulling up carrots all by themselves.
Still, I had to admit at the end of the summer, gardening just wasn’t my thing.
It’s approaching spring now, at least I hope it is here in Minnesota. I see the start of the gardening posts on my social media, people starting seeds or friends in warmer climates harvesting winter citrus.
Please remember, it was social media that spurred me on in the first place. I saw my friends and others with their gardens and thought, I should do that! When really I should have thought, Good for them. Not for me.
It’s easy to get lost in the collectiveness of social media. Scrolling through Instagram made it look like everyone on planet earth but me is gardening. Social media also makes it look like everyone is always going on romantic dates with their spouse. And has polite, clean children who play together nicely. And they’re visiting DisneyWorld. And baking sourdough. And remodeling their kitchen. All at the same time.
Not to state the obvious but no one is doing all of those things. Everyone is doing maybe one or two or three of those things. And we get to pick and choose what things are ours and discover what season is ours to do them in. Some of us bake sourdough. Some of us knit. There’s a time for DisneyWorld and there’s a time to remodel your kitchen. Everyone’s kids look well-behaved because we’re not taking photos of the times they’re hitting their siblings and have faces full of slobber because they’re crying so hard.
This isn’t my season to garden. I might try again someday. Then again, maybe not. (Brown thumb, remember?) Maybe I’ll even plant a couple of small pots this summer, with the onions and basil I use regularly. More likely I’ll continue to leave it all to my local farmers market. I’ll live vicariously through your gardening this summer. I’ll watch you pluck tomatoes and raspberries from the vines (Bushes? I don’t know how these things work.) and serve up fresh vegetables you picked only an hour before. But this time I’m a little older and wiser. I’ll step back and remember, Good for you. Not for me.