*This story was originally published in "Chew on This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder", a book of inspirational short stories by Gary Brock and Kelly Tuck, and is available for purchase here!
*Words of wisdom for inspirational thought are at the end of the story!
I stepped into the community garden area, diligently searching for my assigned plot in order to plant my small garden. What a neat concept, I thought to myself as I surveyed the entire area. I could even see some fresh bursts of color which brought a smile to my face. Several years back, the county set aside a couple acres of land that was plowed and divided into plots for county residents to utilize as a garden. Acquiring a plot was on a “first come, first serve” basis, plots being reserved each January for the calendar year growing season. There were only two requirements to gain access to the community garden: you must be a county resident, and garden availability is limited to one plot per family.
Wandering around the plots with my hoe in hand, I soon found #23, freshly plowed and ready to be transformed into rows. As I looked around, I could see some gardeners had been hard at it. There were several garden plots filled with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and peas. By the size of some of the vegetables, it appeared as though there had been some real early birds out here. Of course, if you planned on having a bountiful harvest with cold weather vegetables, it was imperative to get those plants or seeds into the ground early.
Personally, I was more of a late spring and summer vegetable girl, and was ready to jumpstart the hope of a plentiful harvest full of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, string beans, and butter beans. Scrutinizing the plot, I took my time to contemplate how many rows to make, how far apart to space them, and where each vegetable would grow. I knew from experience that for a garden to be successful, the gardener must be diligent from start to finish. Sometimes it was easy to lose steam midway through the season, but to have a fruitful season you had to stay the course.
Part of that diligence meant keeping the weeds out. The bigger the garden, the more weeds tended to populate. And weeds could grow anywhere, anytime, through almost anything. I had discovered that more weeds meant less harvest because they have a way of intricately choking out the “good stuff.” But what are weeds anyway? I mused to myself. Simply plant life growing in a place that you don’t want it to grow. I walked the perimeter of the plot. Sure, I guess I could spray weed killer, but that would defeat the purpose of my gardening. I don’t want a bunch of chemicals in my food – I am all about organic. That’s why I’m not going to plant any more garden than I want to have to bend over and pull or chop weeds. I’m not going to bite off more than I can chew.
After stepping off my soon to be garden, I drove stakes in the ground on either end of the plot as a guide for row making. I tied a string from stake to stake to keep the rows straight, then began to work until my six rows were finished. One row was designated for each variety of vegetable. My eyes scoured the plot. I may add some eggplant and okra later on in the season, so I’ll leave a little space at the end of a couple of the four rows that are not filled with beans.
I quickly walked to my vehicle to retrieve the plants and seeds waiting patiently to be planted, and headed back to my plot. Making furrows one row at a time, I proceeded to sow my string bean and butter bean seeds, and then planted the tomato, pepper, cucumber, and squash plants. Taking my time, I made sure all the seeds and root balls of the plants were generously covered with soil. Standing, my gaze wandered over my freshly planted garden with a smile. Rain was in the forecast for tomorrow, so my planting was timed perfectly.
* * * * *
Several times a week, I stopped by the community garden area to check on my garden to see how the plants were growing and make sure nothing needed attention. As expected, halfway into the first week I noticed a few weeds popping through the ground here and there. I immediately stooped to pull up the ones growing in the bean rows and chop the ones weaving within the other rows. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice some of the other garden plots seemed to have as many weeds bursting through the ground as sprouted seeds.
* * * * *
Time for a little fertilizer! My grin stretched ear to ear as I took in the sight of strong standing beans, and noticed that the tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers were ready to take off too! Before spreading the fertilizer, I gave my garden the once over, traipsing through and removing any and all weeds. I certainly don’t want to fertilize any weeds - just the good stuff, I chuckled to myself, tugging the last patch of unwanted green from the dirt. Once I finished fertilizing, I glanced over at several other gardens to note they were growing a healthy crop of weeds right alongside their vegetables. My lips pursed slightly. And that is why you pull out the weeds before fertilizing the plants.
* * * * *
The weather had been a friend this season, to which the garden responded nicely. All of my vegetables produced so much that I had plenty to share with my colleagues at work, placing them in the break room for anyone who might share my taste for fresh summer vegetables. I even decided to plant some okra and eggplant at the end of my tomato and pepper rows. As I carried the plants and my hoe to my plot, I couldn’t help but take in the sight of the bountiful crop housed within several gardens near mine. A bountiful harvest of weeds, I snorted to myself, shaking my head. Oh my. I certainly hope those weeds don’t shoot seeds out and blow my way. After planting my new crop, I began my leg and back exercise for the day by walking the length of each row and bending over to pull up unwanted green. Although I did this during every visit, over the course of the growing season my ongoing battle with the weeds had become less strenuous. I guess it’s like a lot of things, “a stich in time saves nine.”
* * * * *
My six year old daughter was excited to help me pick vegetables in the garden when she got home from school. After we pulled into the community garden area parking lot and got out of the car with our baskets, Kelly immediately chirped, “The gardens are sure green, Mommy.”
“I know,” I responded, leading her through the gate and into the gardening area, “it takes green to grow, honey.”
“Where is our garden?” she asked eagerly.
“Right over there.” I pointed to our plot, and she skipped ahead in excitement, swinging her basket with each step.
She stopped abruptly as she reached several plots filled with green that reached almost to the top of her head. She glanced at our garden briefly before taking in the sight of the towering green surrounding her. Her small face turned to me. “Wow, there are some really big gardens here. They’re a lot bigger than ours.”
Reaching her, I leaned down a whispered, “Well, their gardens are bigger, but do you see any vegetables growing?”
She glanced back and forth between the gardens once more before whispering back, “No.”
“That’s because they’re weeds!” I tickled her, prompting her to squeal.
“Do we have weeds too?”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
Bending down next to a full tomato plant, I replied, “Honey, I have come out and worked several times each week ever since I planted the seeds and plants to make sure the weeds stay out. If there are weeds growing, the vegetables can’t grow. It’s just like when we pick the weeds out of our flower garden at home. If the weeds grow, we can’t see the pretty flowers blooming. Do you see all the vegetables that we get to pick and fill our baskets with today?” She nodded, kneeling down beside me. “If the weeds were growing in our garden, we wouldn’t be here to pick the vegetables.”
I continued, “Sometimes I pull them, sometimes I chop them, and sometimes I even miss some. Like that one right there!” I pointed at the small patch of green growing halfway down the row.
“Can I get it?” Kelly asked.
“Absolutely! Pull it out, girl!” I watched as she carefully walked down the row and plucked the weed from the earth. She glanced back to me expectantly. “Good job! Now toss it out of our garden!”
As she flung it out, she asked, “You do this every time?”
“Yes, I look every time I come here for anything growing in our garden that does not need to be here.” I motioned for her to return, and I showed her how to carefully pluck each tomato from the plant.
As we worked and chatted, my thoughts continued to ponder on our conversation of weeds. Knowing object lessons were the best way for little ones to learn, I outstretched my arms. “You know, the gardens out here are just like our lives. We can grow bad feelings or good feelings. We can grow fear or we can grow hope and happiness. We can grow kindness or we can grow selfishness and anger. We can give someone an open hand to help or a closed fist to hurt. Just like weeding the garden, we have to pull the bad stuff out of our lives. It is up to each of us to decide what we will grow.”
Kelly gazed at me, and, although she didn’t say anything, her eyes told me she was thinking.
I smiled, knowing most of this would need further explanation for her to understand, and gently tugged her ponytail. “You, me, and everyone in the world grow things every single day. Always remember that…
* * * * * * *
YOU ARE THE GARDENER OF YOUR LIFE.
WHAT TYPE OF CROP WILL YOU GROW?
* * * * * * *
*Chew On This: Fifty-Two Inspirational Points to Ponder is available for purchase here!