My daughter wasn’t content to simply watch me set out the next tomato transplant. Eying my four-year-old closely, I gave her the shovel. I watched as she methodically dug each scoop until she asked, “Is this enough?” Then, she grabbed the bag of crushed egg shells from our chickens’ eggs.
“You put the stinky fertilizer in, and I’ll put the egg shells in,” she bossed. I tried to explain that the “fertilizer” was stinky because it was organic but I didn’t go into details on the contents. After our handfuls of fertilizer and egg shells, she grabbed the Go Diego Go watering can (her brother’s) and filled the hole halfway with water.
Next, I removed the tomato transplant that we had been growing from seed. She insisted again, “I want to put it in!” I hesitated, knowing one slip and I’d lose the plant I’d nurtured since January. But I let her, and she placed it carefully in the hole. I filled in the hole with dirt, and as she handed me a section of empty toilet paper roll, she asked why we wrap it around the base. “To prevent cutworms from eating through the stem.” I said. “But I thought worms were good for the garden,” she replied. Impressed that she recalled that information, I explained that most of them were good but some weren’t. Finally, we watered one last time and placed the popsicle stick labeled “Beefsteak” next to the plant and went on to the next one.
I savored the memories Alyssa and I made that day. I also began thinking about how I learned to transplant. My mom taught me when I was a little girl. I learned to water the hole before the plant goes in, and water it once it’s planted. While I didn’t take to gardening at an early age like Alyssa has, I remembered those moments with my mom and watching her for years afterward.
I’ve come to learn since I began my gardening adventure two years ago that growing food and flowers is one thing that truly brings people together.
For example, in February Alyssa and I attended The Arkansas Flower and Garden show in Little Rock. I found myself at the booth of the White Harvest Seed Company looking at a weeding hoe and some heirloom seeds. The man from the booth and I spent about ten minutes talking, as he explained the best hoe for my needs and helped me choose the seeds I wanted. His booth was the highlight of my trip; I enjoyed listening to his tips and knowledge. A short time later, walking with my hoe in my hand, an elderly gentleman stopped me and said, “That’s a great hoe.” Just in that quick exchange, his experience assured me I had purchased the right one. (And the first time I used it, I knew he was right!)
I’ve gained so much insight, as a new gardener, from those with years of gardening experience behind them. But just recently, a young friend in my church came up to me, excited that she and her husband had just bought their first home. She asked me for tips as they start their first garden together. We chatted a bit over her hopes and I gave her quick suggestions as they begin.
Of course, with today’s technology, the give-and-take in gardening wisdom isn’t limited to our own neighborhoods. Several months ago I met a woman from Washington, online, in my stage of life who gardens and manages a homestead. She and I enjoy trading stories of our gardens, our climates, and even our faith. I consider her a friend – a friend I wouldn’t have made if it hadn’t been for our common love of gardening.
Have you noticed that gardening has seemed to experience a resurgence in the past few years? I’m sure the reasons for this are plentiful, but one thing is certain. It brings people together, from the youngest like my 4-year-old to the ones who have valuable hands-on experience to pass to the coming generations.
And I don’t know about you, but if we’ve ever as a culture needed a common cause – a unifier – it’s now. So perhaps we should all go pick up a shovel, dig in some dirt, swap some seeds, and trade stories. I have a feeling we’d find that we have more in common than we think.