Twenty-six years ago, when I first decided to call myself a gardener, I kind of sucked. I knew next to nothing. Companion planting? What? Soil compaction? No clue. Crop rotation? I knew my uncle did it with the corn, alfalfa, and wheat fields. But I had no clue it was a gardening best practice. And I grew everything in thin rows! Rows upon rows. The space-sensitive-me-of-today would never dream of growing in thin rows!
Still, I ended my first season of gardening with a freezer full of veggies and lots of knowledge, mostly the product of learning from mistakes, but also a fair amount from books and teachers.
Today, I consider myself a good gardener. Not a great one. But pretty darn good.
I’m thrilled I started gardening for myself (not as a part of my childhood chores) in 1994. My life is fuller. My knowledge about me and my surroundings is much greater. And I’ve witnessed through practice that mistakes are a great way to get better. Here’s the thing: I’ve made a ton of errors in gardening. But I’ve found that most of the time when I try to do well, I make myself and my surroundings a bit better.
People devote themselves to all kinds of interesting (and, some not so interesting) things. Some are good. Some are bad. I’d advise weening out some of the bad and replacing it with some good. But then with those good things: do them, make mistakes, practice.
Practice through success and failure with as much humor as you can. (Listen to your advice, Michael.)
A month of practice results in a ton of knowledge and change — in fact, some of the most fun knowledge and changes. A year: some people start asking you for advice, and “how’d you learn to do that?” Five years: now, you’re comfortable calling yourself a gardener, or whatever its equivalent is for your chosen path.
Twenty-six years: you realize how little you know and how interesting the rest of your life can be.
Garden on, friends!