I almost didn’t share it.
But before I could talk myself out of it, I posted a photo of a brand new crop I planted this year. I had seen other gardeners from around the world grow this unique, prolific bean and I couldn’t wait to test it in my garden for fun.
Also known as asparagus beans, Chinese red noodle beans catch the eye with their maroon hue and almost 18-inch length. But once my beans reached maturity, I had no idea how to cook or eat them after harvest.
Doing what I always do these days when I have a gardening question, I wanted to ask fellow gardeners on Instagram how to prepare this unique bean. The problem? While the beans themselves captured the attention in the photograph, the background probably would, too. And it was the background that concerned me.
Behind the striking maroon noodles dangling from my trellis, one couldn’t help but notice the bean leaves full of holes. Each year my beans endure munching from insects but never to their detriment. This year, though, has been an exceptionally difficult year. More than once I questioned whether the plants could survive the damage without intervention. Still, I chose to do nothing.
I’m a home gardener who grows organically. I never add synthetic fertilizer, insecticides, or herbicides in or around my garden. I rarely even apply organic pesticides, saving them for the direst of circumstances because I know that even organic treatments don’t come without risk. Not only do I not practice non-organic methods, but I’m also vocal in encouraging others to adopt this method of gardening as well.
Over the years I have observed how this organic, hands-off approach has benefited the health of my garden and the overall health of my plants. It’s not perfect, though. Some insects get the upper hand; however, this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the proverbial greater good of my garden and the environment.
But would this photo cause those who depend on me for garden guidance to question whether my hands-off approach really is the best? Would they look at the ugly damage to my beans and decide an organic approach isn’t the path for them?
In the end, I posted the photo. The optimistic side of me hoped the beans themselves would steal the show and no one would notice the lacy leaves in the background. Plus, there was the whole reason for my post in the first place: I wanted to know how to cook my new harvest.
But my fears proved true within minutes. The first comment to my post assured me that my damaged beans didn’t go unnoticed. As much as I cringed at the thought, I also breathed a sigh of relief. This gardener from another part of the country commented, “I’m sorry but I am comforted by the look of your bean leaves. Mine are full of holes also!”
Sharing the not-so-Instagram-worthy picture of my garden encouraged another gardener in a way I hadn’t anticipated. When highly-edited, carefully-selected, curated garden photos adorn our social media feeds, we can get discouraged when the garden outside our back door doesn’t measure up. We doubt ourselves and question whether we should give up and leave the gardening to the pros.
But when we see that every gardener has struggles, we’re encouraged to keep going. We can take a more objective glance at our gardens and look at what is working well.
Maybe my beans were having a rough time, but I enjoyed one of the best squash and zucchini harvests in recent memory. Maybe my melons were behind because the wet spring required me to replant twice, but I harvested more raspberries and blueberries this year than ever.
It’s all about perspective.
I believe gardeners are some of the most optimistic people you’ll meet. But even optimists can get discouraged when not everything turns out as planned and it seems no one else faces the challenges we do.
Perhaps in both gardening and life, we should be more willing to show our “holes.” In doing so, we offer one of the most encouraging gifts we can give — acceptance, reassurance, and strength amid discouragement.