Troy Reimink: A new season of inept gardening is coming | News






Troy Reimink


Curiously, it was the Brussels sprout seedlings that broke through the ground first. I would have bet money on beefsteak tomatoes or cucumbers, but what do I know?

Regarding gardening: very little, I assure you.

In Michigan, we crawl through planting season—that nerve-wracking time between early planting of seeds indoors and the last frost, when plants transfer to the ground outside our gardens where they will eventually die, but not before either thriving or sputtering.

And the cucumbers might be sputtering already because it turns out I wasn’t supposed to start them until mid-April instead of early March. That’s when, seeing the Instagrams of green-fingered friends who had clearly been prepping all winter, I panicked and threw all the seeds I could find into cardboard boxes. eggs full of soil, setting off another annual cycle of botanical incompetence.

“Turns out” is a phrase I’ve come to use a lot when nurturing my collection of garden plants over the past four springs, summers, and autumns since I’ve owned a home. I don’t feel qualified to use “garden” as a noun or a verb, as it neither describes my random assortment of hypothetical vegetables nor my clumsy attempts to give it a useful meaning.

You see, I know half an hour on the Google machine would provide more horticultural wisdom, fertilizing advice, and assorted gardening tips than I would have any idea what to do with. But I steer clear of such readily available help, determined to learn by my own trial and error. Call it a cry of resistance in an optimization fetish world – or maybe just the laziness I’m trying to pass off as a principled stance.

The downsides of this mindset are obvious. Last year, I aggressively tilled nearly half the area of ​​my yard and watched all summer long as my carefully planted rows succumbed to the weedy chaos (as in, all the grass grew back).

The year before, in the depths of the pandemic, I attempted to amass an apocalypse bunker’s worth of produce. Instead, I received three jars of homemade pickles and poorly preserved tomato sauce that could have given me botulism.

Easily avoidable errors. And lessons like this keep coming fast and hard. Such as managing expectations with the floor; a respect for the cycles of growth and decline that mark the passage of our ephemeral existence; a belated appreciation for my dog’s fanatical vendetta against squirrels.

Gardening can be as pragmatically simple or as existential as one decides to make it. For example, there are few things more satisfying than cooking with ingredients you’ve grown yourself (take that, Monsanto).

But it also illuminates our relationship to the natural world in all its beauty, complexity and cruelty. One way to approach gardening is not only to de-romanticize this world, but also to develop an adversarial relationship with it. In a recent New York Times article titled “The Joy of Terrible Gardening,” Jay Caspian Kang advised, “Do your best to reciprocate the contempt and indifference nature has for you.”

I respect that, and those who witnessed my cultivation attempts would surely recognize the contempt flowing back and forth. But like countless other aspiring growers, I also find the serenity of home gardening even more rewarding than the meager physical yield I am able to get from the soil.

Psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith, author of the 2020 book “The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature,” in another recent Times article, suggested approaching gardening not as an attempt to foil or control nature, but rather collaborate with it.

“Gardening is an accessible form of creativity and allows us to bring something new to the world,” she explained. “I see gardening as an encounter between human creative energy and the creative energy of nature.”

This explains the garden’s appeal to those of us who are consciously or even willfully evil. It’s one of the few uses of time and effort that is, by definition, literally productive. Because something will grow, thanks to our efforts and just as often in spite of them.

Troy Reimink is a writer and musician from West Michigan.

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