Until I left for the convent at the age of 18, I was a sort of surrogate mother of at least half of my eight younger brothers and sisters. As a result, I thought for years that I had all the qualifications and experience needed to be a superb mother.
As I have developed something of an enthusiasm for gardening this last year, I have treated my fledgling vegetables and fruit in much the same way as I treated my younger brothers and sisters. And I’m not so sure I would have been such a good mother, after all.
The unrecognized child-rearing philosophy of my youth probably was a result of my own “I can do it myself” psychology that I remember even as a two-year-old insisting that I could button my own clothes even if the first attempt was a bit out of sync. So I assumed that what children wanted was to be taught how to do something, and then get on with it themselves. I wasn’t much for hugs or nurturing.
To my astonishment, I’ve just realized that I’ve been treating the vegetables in the garden the same way. ”There,” I said to each sprouting seed, “I’ve planted you in fertile, well-watered earth. You can grow now.” So I was a little late in recognizing that the collard and cauliflower needed a little help in fighting off the white fly and slugs. And it didn’t occur to me to actually read a gardening book to see when or how to harvest kale or purple-sprouting broccoli. I assumed I would be able to tell when they were ready, and how to pick them.
But a good vegetable crop needs a little more fussing over.
Just as some children do.
I’m glad, though, that carrots and swiss chard have been my instructors – even if it is a little late.
And next year I plan to be a more maternal gardener.
Or maybe I should just write a book telling somebody else how to do it? I bet I’d be good at that. And I could just buy my vegetables from the farm market.