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For many of us, early May is an opportune time to plant our summer garden. We headed out to our local gardening center to pick out our seedlings, and while there, we stumbled upon an interesting, and somewhat humorous, family gardening dynamic. Meet the planner and the gardener (the “doer”).
When it comes to gardening in our family, I am the planner. The planner basically tags along throughout the whole gardening process. We “invite” ourselves to be included in the seedling selection. Once at the nursery, we are inspired by all of the choice. The little seedlings call our name and say, “Take me home. I’ll blossom, smell great, create oxygen, help you lighten your carbon footprint, and at the end of the season, I’ll deliver a cornucopia of vegetables that you can eat”. It’s so easy to get tempted and grab twenty or thirty new plants — all the while, envisioning the most local source-to-table meals throughout the summer. You can usually spot the planners from a distance: we grab seedlings off the shelves and can pack the cart full in less than 5 minutes flat. Occasionally throughout the growing season, we might help plant, water, and weed (mostly on fair weather days) – primarily, we are the ones with “the vision”.
In stark contrast, the “gardener” follows a somewhat different approach. At the seedling selection, the gardeners silently stand by. They watch, partly in shock and partly in horror, at how quickly the planners fill the cart. They calculate how much time, effort, and plot size all of the seedlings are going to need throughout the growing season. The calculation process takes up much of their initial focus, as new plants are added to the cart every minute, changing the previously calculated requirements. Typically, the first time that gardeners provide collaborative input is after they’ve realized that the planners have overloaded the plant wagon.
Jeff is the gardener: he plants, waters, weeds, and watches our garden with near hawk-like precision. He makes sure that the timers are always working, and replaces parts on the drip or sprinkler system when things break down. When we get bug infestations, he figures out the least invasive way how to deal with them – solutions like sprinkling ladybugs (they eat aphids) in the garden at late night so that they don’t fly away. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that without the gardener, there would be no actual garden.
The irony about gardening is that it’s supposed to be about getting in touch with our roots and nature; it’s supposed to represent collaboration. In the early pioneering settlement days, farmers and neighbors alike would help each other out during the planting and harvesting seasons. One would think that gardening would be a serene experience, getting back to nature and all, but our recent trip to the gardening center revealed a lot more about families than we had expected. Instead, we witnessed a lot of animated exchanges going on around us: couples, parents, and children, voicing their differences in gardening approaches and plant selections – a philosophical duel between the planners and the gardeners. Its’ a subtle family dynamic, but if you have an opportunity, take a step back and observe for a minute or two. We did. The funniest things in life are when you see yourself in other people – people that you don’t even know. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Pick the plants and be prepared to pitch in. And most importantly, try not to let gardening become a source of contention (apparently, gardening can cause many disagreements, just Google it).
In the spirit of sharing, here’s a list of what’s in our vegetable garden (don’t worry, Jeff didn’t plant them all by himself and we had some left over from prior years) :
- Chile pepper plants (mix of ancho poblano and jalapeno peppers)
- Grapes (Cabernet)
- Grapefruit (still in development)
- Lavender (edible variety)
- Lemon Verbena
- Mint (chocolate, Moroccan, peppermint)
- Rosemary (we have what my mom has nicknamed the $3000 rosemary plant, due to its maturity/size)
- Tomatoes (Roma, heirloom, etc.)