Skip to main content

Gardening’s Growing Pains

The longer we garden, the more we know. Only makes sense, right? Sadly, this “more we know" is offset by a couple of cruel factors. First is an up close and personal awareness of the ravages of time. Yep, the longer we garden, the older we get. 


And, of course, the older we get, the more we forget. 

There’s also this: The more we know about gardening, the more we know how little we know of all there is to know. 

Kind of ironic, no?!  

Sadly, reaching this wizened state is inevitably a slow and eventually humbling process. The unfortunate part of that last sentence is the word “eventually.” It asserts that through our progression toward enlightenment—which, you’ll remember, means we got just enlightened enough to know that we really aren’t, and never will be—there was a period when we thought we knew it all, and, worse, we likely weren’t all that humble about it. 

It’s easy to spot gardeners in this stage of their development. They are typically very bright, three- to ten-year gardeners who got bit by the bug and became very passionate. They have read all the cool-kid books. They download podcasts and routinely share memes—and they are wreaking havoc all over the Internet by booing, hissing, cursing, ranting, mocking and berating everyone who doesn’t garden just like they garden.  

There’s not much you can do for people in this state other than give them time and hope they grow out of it. Oh, and pray for their souls. This is important, because there are few sins as heinous as discouraging others from gardening in these times of environmental crises, health crises and social divisiveness.

Gardening mitigates all three of these concerns. Converting non-gardeners into gardeners is far more important than berating some newbie because they’re asking about how to grow some petunias and you think they should grow switchgrass, or native food crops, or whatever.

Fact is, virtually any garden is better than no garden, and once a beginner experiences a few successes they quickly become more serious and responsible in their choices and practices. (Then, alas, they get cocky and lurk in chatrooms just to give living hell to people asking questions about petunias for a period of some years. It's a cycle!)

As you grow, do your best to minimize that un-humbled, know-it-all stage. Realize that by “winning” an argument online, you may have only managed to convince prospective gardeners to choose go-cart racing for their spare time instead. Only offer encouragement and advice that will help others succeed. 

If you can’t do that, just go outside, dig your soil and revel in the infinite unknowns gardening gives us to figure out. And when some question turns out to be unanswerable, sit back and enjoy a good mystery.