What My Vegetables Taught Me

May 1, 2011
There really is nothing quite like the feeling of a fine layer of dust covering you from head to toe. To some, it just feels like being dirty, but for me, it’s the feeling of proof that I got out and got some good hard work done that day. And for those of you who are in the know, the best possible way in the world to get that stinky, sweaty, spiders-in-my-boots I’m-tired-but-in-a-good-way feeling is to tend a garden.

I won’t lie – gardening among the most tedious, mundane, unexciting activities you can spend your weekend doing. Ripping weed after weed out of the earth, checking to make sure the roots of each are dug out; pruning dead branches and leaves to keep plants healthy; sticking your hands into heaven-only-knows-what insect nest to take it out; raking leaves before your gorgeous emerald grass is drown in the flood of foliage; clipping hedges into that masterful, artesian topiary that all your friends are so impressed with despite the fact none of them can tell what the heck it’s supposed to be. And please, please don’t get me started on compost and fertilizer (around here, we go to farms and get real manure. Sounds like boatloads of fun, doesn’t it?)

And then pest management is always a blast, trying to keep in ordinance with local animal safety laws, EPA regulations, and convincing neighbors that, yes, indeed, their cat is fine – the trap Fluffy got herself into is safe and completely humane. She can be ‘rescued’ once she stops trying to kill anybody who tries to pull her out. Oh, but that’s just the beginning – the pests aren’t limited to just the feline and insect varieties. ‘Round my parts, rabbits, foxes, deer, elk, squirrels, bats, and even skunks are going to try and eat whatever you grow. That is, if you manage to grow anything; birds aren’t a usually a problem, but the neighborhood free-range chickens, geese, and turkeys sure find fresh seed tasty.

Once you wage the war against hard work and small herbivores, everything is cool, right? Well, the most epic part of gardening comes once all the plants finally bloom: bees, ants, and wasps. It’s not so much as they pose a danger to the garden as they do to the gardener himself. Bees and ants can be controlled easily enough if you go for natural garden defenses, like praying mantises, but wasps are a whole different story. They like to play surprises, say, for example, finding a way into your shed and building a basketball-sized nest. Overnight. And then getting ticked off when you destroy half of it when you open the door.

Finally, after all those countless hours of turmoil over what is supposed to be a relaxing hobby, you harvest. Fresh vegetables for dinner or to give to neighbors, or flowers to arrange into a nice table setting. It seems worth it, until the final realization comes along. You only planted a couple tomato plants, three rows of corn, a patch of lettuce, and a handful of zucchini. Yeah, good luck finding something to do with all of that. It’s great to have the fresh veggies, at first. Then, it happens: two days after harvesting your lettuce, it’s all there again! A dozen heads bigger than volleyballs, and they just attract aforementioned herbivores if you leave them be. Those tomatoes taste great, but they fall off the plant by the bucketful, and that corn is popping right on the cob it’s taking so long in the day to harvest. Oh, and remember that handful of zucchini? Congratulations, you’ve just learned why some people have bumper stickers that read, “Lock Your Doors, It’s Zucchini Season!”

Yet… when I look out into the garden I slaved over for the last several months, something inside of me just warms up. I look out there and say, “I did that. That exists because of me.” Nothing else I’ve ever felt can top that feeling of pride, of accomplishment; it was I who planned the garden, did the work, took the responsibility to make sure it was tended and tended well.

Now, this year, I do not have a garden. I’m living away from home to work for the summer, and when I return in the fall I will start college. I’m looking out into the bare patch of soil where my family may or may not plant something this year, and it makes me feel a little empty to not be worrying about that little fenced in area. But, I think about it deeper, and I realize, after these last few years, I’ve learned a little about myself in keeping the yard. That feeling of accomplishment, that’s what drives me to throw myself fully into whatever tasks I will, that if I tackle something head on I can and will do the work to get the end product the way I want – or, that I can be mature and accept things when the results are less than satisfactory.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s a lesson I can take with me and teach my fellow classmates next year.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

ALM007 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 23, 2012 at 4:32 am
Not bad for an improv piece and I can't believe someone my age likes Daniel Davis, not to mention Poirot and Billy Joel (but everyone loves toast). I just discovered the Nanny a few weeks ago and I loves Niles, even if he's gay, he's hilarious and the love/hate relationship with Babcock is just so sweet. You should write more pieces.
PJD17 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm
This is great  keep up the tremendous work i really enjoyed it  if you could  would you please check out and comment on my story Numb.  i would really appreciate the feedback
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