A happy gardener is one who admits that she (or he) is never finished in the garden.
We talk about being finished all the time, but we know, deep down inside, that there is no “finish” in a garden, no real end to what needs to be done.
Just like it appears like there is no end, no bottom, to this swirl of leaves of one of my Red Banana plants, Ensete maurelii.
We must embrace “never finished” for a happier life.
We say, “I’m finished weeding”, and indeed we might look back down a row in the vegetable garden or across a flower bed and see nary a weed left standing, we were so thorough in our weeding.
But then the next morning, we slip out to the garden in the first light of day, still in our night clothes, wearing little bunny slippers, tea cup in hand, and run smack dab into a giant weed in that very bed!
How did we miss such a big weed? Did it grow overnight? It must have. And all around we see more little weed sprouts. Weeding, we all know, is an ongoing activity. We are never finished with weeding.
We buy dozens of bags of mulch or have a large truckload of the finest mulch we can afford dumped on the driveway. Then we proceed to sweat and toil with shovel and wheelbarrow to move all that mulch to various flower beds and shrub borders. And when we’ve spread it all, we say “We’ve finished mulching!”
But the laws of nature decree that no matter how much mulch we buy, we’ll always end up one wheelbarrow load short of what we need, and there will be that one out of the way corner, or furthest section of the garden, that didn’t quite get enough mulch.
So we aren’t finished mulching, really, we’ve just run out of mulch. So we add to our “to do” list to get that last bag or two or ten of mulch that we need to finish mulching and then weeks later wonder when we’ll get that done.
In the spring, we stand proudly in our vegetable gardens, leaning on our hoes, and announce to anyone nearby “I’ve finished planting the vegetable garden!” And for a little while, maybe even a few days or a week, we really believe we have finished that rite of spring, the planting of the vegetable garden.
But then we go out to the garden after work one day and stare in horror at all the pepper plants that have been bitten off by something, someone, in our absence. With total disgust because that someone didn’t even eat the plant after he bit it off, we go to the garden center and buy more pepper plants and plant again.
Or maybe the corn came up very sparsely, so we decide the seed was bad and we go buy more seed and plant more corn.
And so it continues in the garden, both vegetable and flower. We see a blank spot of earth and think we must fill it with more plants. We are never finished planting.
If we really want to be finished with something, we should have chosen other hobbies.
We could have chosen to make miniature dollhouses. Once you’ve finished one, it’s done. There is no more to do. You can put it on a shelf or give it to someone and start over with a new dollhouse.
Or we could have chosen to sew quilts. You can finish making a quilt. When it’s finished, you can wrap yourself up in it, lay it across the foot of the bed, or give it away and start a new one.
But we chose gardening, or gardening chose us.
With gardening, “finished” never means “done”. It means we got as far as we could before we wore ourselves out or we ran out of dirt or plants or seed. Or maybe it got too hot or rained a bunch so we had to stop for a bit.
But it never means “the end”, “finished”, “no more”.
We are gardeners. We should embrace “never finished” for a happier life.