As someone trying to encourage more people to grow their own food, that conversation reminded me that my task is to not only give people good information about how to garden but to find ways to break through that fear of being a novice.
Now if you’re the type of person that dives right into new endeavors without a moment of hesitation, then I fully support you and this blog post might not be that useful. But I have a feeling that the struggles of that workshop participant are not hers alone.
I have been there, trust me. Paralyzed by perfection, uncertain about my skills, and terrified of failing, it was a few years before I felt like I had enough knowledge to start a garden of my own. It took volunteering on organic farms, taking workshops, and reading books before I even felt able to begin. Couple that doubt with a busy life and a short growing season and I get it...as much as you would like to have a beautiful garden where you pluck succulent tomatoes off the vine, or graze for luscious peas as you move effortlessly through your weed-free garden, when it comes down to it, it’s far easier, more convenient, and way less time-consuming just to buy vegetables at the grocery store.
Yet, like any new interest, if you lock onto something that intrigues or challenges you, it isn’t long before the act of resisting it is more damaging to the ego than the act of just beginning.
I diligently cared for them every day, absolutely certain of my imminent failure.
To my surprise, most of the seeds germinated and then, after further review of my notes, I transferred them to bigger pots. Lo and behold, they grew into seedlings like the ones that I would see in the nurseries. Did that success infuse me with confidence so that I fearlessly planted my entire garden and basked in the glory of my yields?
Of course not.
At every turning point during that first growing season, I was wrought with uncertainty and self-doubt, second-guessing my decisions, my planting scheme, and the vegetables that I had chosen to grow. I would be lying if some of those same feelings don’t come up for me still, when I’m trying new seed varieties or new techniques. The feelings are just more muted by the years of experience that have convinced me of a couple truths:
First, seeds want to sprout, plants want to grow, and life wants to prevail despite our belief that we will perpetually fail, and second,
we will fail, and that’s completely normal, if not expected.
So, for the daunted gardeners out there, here is some advice to get you started. I’m not going to share the nuts and bolts of gardening with you. For that sort of information, you can take one of my workshops, go to my previous videos, or download My 5 Gardening Tips here. Rather, this is the advice to break through the mental blocks that keep you from beginning in the first place.
It will also teach you more intangible lessons like patience, understanding natural cycles, and the benefit of observation. Then, hopefully, over time, it will cut through your fear of failure, and encourage you to try again. Your garden will let you know that the natural world is forgiving of our mistakes, the challenge is more with us being forgiving of ourselves.
The reality is that what I do every year is not complicated. And even if it isn’t ‘perfect’, it still becomes a beautiful and riotous mess of greenery, attracting beneficial insects, creating habitat, and building fertility. A garden will challenge you in good and often surprising ways and when you have success, it will be sweet, meaningful, and nourishing.