Last year, I, like many other people during this pandemic, decided to try my hand at growing a vegetable garden. After all, we were going to be home for the season, so why not see if I could make green things grow? Plus, it was the first summer at our home that I hadn’t spent in a leg cast, so that seemed promising.

Also, remember last summer, when we all thought we’d be “back to normal?” Sigh…

Anyway, it should be noted that I am not in possession of a green thumb, or any other digit, limb or part of my anatomy of any remotely verdant shade, for that matter, apart from my hazel eyes, I suppose.

Historically speaking, when plants have entered my domain, they tend to commit suicide, rather than accept my well-intentioned but impatient, totally unqualified and bumbling ministrations.

I have had some (very limited) success, but I’ve learned a lot in the process. Mostly I learned a lot about myself and life, as opposed to how to actually make vegetables grow, but in this life we take what we are given, which is actually one of the lessons I learned.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my garden:

    • Not everything you water will grow.
      Sometimes, you can do everything right, and it still doesn’t work out, whether it’s in a flower bed, a relationship or a career move. Some seeds just won’t sprout.


    • “Should” is not a strategy.
      No amount of thinking something should grow will actually lead to it growing.


    • Wanting something enough is not enough.
      Vision without action is just wishful thinking. Sheer desire alone will not make anything happen. Thinking about doing something is not as productive as actually doing something.


    • Work with what you’ve got.
      So you’re pretty sure you only planted green zucchini but only grew yellow? Okay. You have no idea what that mystery squash is? Cool: adventure dinner ahead! The neighbours’ strawberries grew under the fence? Catch those runners and grow ’em!


    • It’s extraordinarily satisfying to watch things grow.
      Do not underestimate the joy and pleasure that comes from making a thing grow, or making a thing, period. Do this frequently.


    • The grass is always greener where you water it.
      Pay attention to your own garden, instead of envying everyone else’s. Maybe their garden is more successful because of some magic, or maybe they were just more diligent in keeping to a consistent watering schedule.


    • Growing things have requirements.
      This is not rocket science. Good soil and lots of water make things grow. Some hardy plants can do with less, but generally speaking, things that grow have resource requirements, and if you are stingy with the basic requirements, growth will be stunted and you may not see any fruit. This goes for humans, as well.


    • Find ways to make things easier.
      If you’re not going to get out there and water daily, then put in irrigation. Also, hand-watering is a pain in the ass, which means you won’t do it. It’s not a character flaw to find an easier way to make things work.


    • Half-assing something doesn’t lead to full results.
      Eighty percent effort doesn’t yield one-hundred-percent outcome. If you start strong and see some results, but then give up, you will not get what you wanted, or at least not all of it.


    • Focusing on failure is not a success strategy.
      What you water grows, so if you’re putting all your attention on your failure, that’s what you’ll get more of. Are you focusing all your attention on what isn’t working, instead of cultivating what is?


    • Incessant checking and worrying doesn’t improve outcomes.
      Staring at seedlings, worrying about them and checking them incessantly only causes stress. Growth requires time.


    • It’s not about you.
      You are not God, or the Manager of the Universe. If it’s the hottest summer on record, maybe you could chill with the “I’m-a-shitty-gardener” bit and acknowledge that it’s tough time in the world right now, and that is not your fault.


    • Learn the difference between waiting and procrastinating.
      While it’s still not about you and yes, patience is a virtue, there probably is actually something that you can do that would be useful or helpful that you’re putting off. Do it now.


    • Give things space and grace to grow.
      Planting things too close will choke them out. Also, you are not a terrible person for not knowing things you have not yet learned.


    • To everything, there is a season.
      If you plant late, you might miss the window. Trust the timing of Nature, which includes time for rest and recovery for all things, humans included.


    • Nature’s will probably won’t bend to yours.
      She’s been here way longer and Nature always wins in the long run. Just because you want to have all your greens growing in a convenient-for-you location does not mean that location is the right place to grow greens (next to the house, in full sun).


    • Life happens as it will, at its own pace. Calm down.
      Things will happen as they do, regardless of how I think they should happen instead. There’s that “should” again…

I didn’t know that when I started a garden, I’d be learning so much about myself, or new and exciting ways to use zucchini, which are apparently the one vegetable I can grow abundantly.

And even if I am something of a disaster in the garden, I think I’ll keep on giving it a try, because the satisfaction of seeing something grow as though by magic—I think it actually IS magic—never gets old. Plus, growing my own life lessons is a great garden to tend.

Have you tried growing things? Where else have you been surprised to learn life lessons?