I’ve never grown a plant outdoors
"I usually think if I get the big thing it will make me do the small thing, but the more I grow and heal the more I can actually do the small tasks first without trapping myself by going to the end." this reminder, forever and ever and ever please
I love when people learn to garden, especially in adult life. I have been a gardener since I was three, when my mother taught me to tamp bean seeds in soil with my tiny chubby feet and dig up potatoes. A favorite memory: my grandfather growing Tommytoes for me every year because I would get excited to pick them. I had my own area of his garden full of those little red tomatoes. I remember it well. I love that you are taking this garden ride and are open to reaching out, learning, and moving slowly. I still learn and constantly mess things up all these years later. I’ve been in a just slightly different area and temp zone for the last 3 years than I was for over 20. Sometimes that feels like starting over in many ways. We are also now in the woods with deer, raccoons, bears, escaping neighbor cows. I am just now learning to create barriers to save my plants, but also appreciate the curious nibble here and there. Good luck and fun on your garden adventure!
I just had to google "hoop house" so you are ahead of me there.
This weekend I pulled maple tree seedlings from the blanket of composting leaves around our blueberry bushes. When I was a kid, my mom would say, "come help me weed!" and it felt like she was happily admitting she liked torture and asking if I wanted to join, but on Saturday I had so much fun pulling each of the tiny maple trees out. So I recognize that just because I didn't like something when I was 6 doesn't mean I have to keep not liking it. We have blueberries because we live in Maine and I love them. I like what a long-term project they are. The first year we had like 7 blueberries and now we have hundreds.
We also have cherry trees because when my kid Zuzu was turning 5, she spent months talking about how it was going to be her "cherry birthday" and then like three weeks before we were like "oh, DAMN, she's been talking about her cherry birthday for literally six months now." So we got her trees. That's fun too. I was going to put this netting stuff over them to keep the birds off, but the nice man at the gardening center said, "that's a great way to teach your children about death" because I guess the birds get stuck in the netting and then you have cherries yes but you also have a net full of dead birds. I want to teach my kids about death, sure, but not like that. So we end up sharing the cherries with the birds.
(And now I have told you everything I know about outdoor gardening.)
I love everything about this, and wish you all the joy on your gardening journey. During the pandemic I sheet mulched part of a suburban yard full of crabgrass, tossed in a bunch of seeds, and somehow ended up with a wild, flourishing garden of delights. Now it's all I want to do with my life.
Marlee! 18 months ago today I sat on the beach in Costa Rica on a bougie vacation I did not enjoy. I spent most of my time there reading your work - and it felt so much like coming home that it gave me the clarity to announce to my husband that I was either leaving him or leaving my career, and I chose to leave the career and equity in my company. Gardening is me and I am gardening so I began a very scary garden design business and today it is thriving. I help people all over the country learn to garden and I am the happiest I have ever been. I also write again, thanks to you and your newsletters. In my 20s, writing professionally was my tool for deconstructing a fundamentalist cult background and navigating toxic dating relationships in the evangelical culture -- and today it is my tool for deconstructing the hustle culture of advertising. But to everyone else it just appears that I write to simplify my horticulture courses for the layman and show how easy it can be to garden. This is a thank you from the bottom of my heart, and also to cheerlead you on beginning a part of life that has taught me almost all my lessons. I hope you love it. - Lauren
In the defense of dill:
I grew dill in pots on my back porch in Philadelphia a few years ago and maybe in blind confidence, the plants thrived completely. I just googled and maybe it was because the porch got so much sun and I am famous for neglecting the soil. If a plant needs much tending I am not the steward for its success. I found butterfly eggs on my dill so I stopped eating it and instead spent my gardening time protecting them. They hatched and I had caterpillars. Killer wasps came and I had less caterpillars sharing my dill. I cried, but that's nature. They built cocoons and I carried the plants indoors. I watched them and I waited and I waited and one morning I woke up and three black swallowtail butterflies were dancing around my kitchen. They filled themselves with dill and then they flew away and I cried again. It was such a surprise, such a deviation from what I expected to happen. I had no idea that if I planted dill, the butterflies would surely come. But now I will never not plant the dill. What's the worst that could happen?
You have quickly become my favorite substack. Your writing just really connects with my soul.
Congrats on starting this journey! I learned just as you did - with the help of others, books, and little experiments in the soil. I remember the first year I got my 50/50 blend delivered to my driveway - so proud. Four years later, I was walking a wheelbarrow down my block and across the busy street to get horse manure from my neighbor six blocks away. I did three loads, which the patrons drinking outside the little corner bar might have appreciated less than I did ;) Anyway, it can really spiral. I wish you the best adventure!!