This summer, I had the great gift of a garden "intern." When my friend and coworker (Jen is a Biology teacher at my school) asked if she could help me once a week through the summer, I jumped at the opportunity. Help and company in the garden? Yes, please. As the summer has worn to its last little nubbin, today was our last day working together, and I asked Jen to write an end-of-summer recap about her experiences. I assigned her a simple prompt: What did you get out of the garden?
By Jennifer Eggers
By Jennifer Eggers
For a variety of reasons completely out of my control, I found myself with very little to do this summer. So little, it could be measured in one word, nothing. Friends suggested all sorts of things, but part of my resistance came from the bitterness of having found myself with nothing regularly scheduled. I kept asking, “What do I enjoy that doesn’t involve teaching or education?” I love to go to the Arboretum and gardens but there’s no space for me to have a garden in or around my one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. Besides, the houseplants I have are already taking over; as my boyfriend points out, they’re starting to cover the television. Then inspiration hit: volunteer in someone’s garden. And who do I know that already has a well-established garden and is very knowledgeable? The rest of the story is history. The pieces just fell into place.
We decided Tuesday mornings would be for gardening. Even if I spent the previous day walking through Disneyland, out late, or enjoying some wine, bright and early I would be out gardening. I don’t tend to be a really happy person in the morning, but even shoveling goat poop and soiled hay was not bad when outside in the midst of plants. My overall health benefited from these grand Tuesday mornings, but I also learned more than I could’ve ever learned about plants in one of my college biology classes. Some tidbits have proven to be helpful, whereas others are just hilarious.
Things I’ve Learned This Summer:
- Just because a strawberry is growing between two cracks of cement at the Huntington Gardens doesn’t mean it's not going to be the most amazing strawberry of my life.
- Jerusalem crickets are not from this planet.
- A wall of ivy is never ending work. Just leave it in a pot.
- “Plant surgery” is not as gross as human surgery. Orchid roots just need to be worked with sometimes.
- Decomposers are amazing.
- Fungicide can be made in a variety of non-smelly ways, including with cinnamon.
- Corn grows ridiculously fast.
- Performing sexual reproduction for plants is not as weird as it might seem. Each strand coming out of an ear of corn needs pollen in order to produce a single kernel.
- Canning tomatoes is a long process and should not be done on hot days.
- A screen (like for the windows) can be used as sunscreen for peppers. Good thing too, because I wasn’t ready to slather some SPF 85 on them as well.
- Field trips to other gardens are just as exciting as field trips were during elementary school.
- “Dead heading” does not hurt the plant. I nearly cried while dead-heading the lavender.
- There are lizards everywhere.
- There something peaceful about trimming shallots that have just been harvested and throwing the trimmings directly into the compost pile.
- Mice can spontaneously appear out of a compost pile while being moved. Turns out Louis Pasteur was wrong; spontaneous generation does happen. (Note to self to change that lesson plan when I get back to school.)
- Coming home with a bag of produce after working with all the plants feels amazing.
So today as I pulled what felt like microscopic worms off sprouts, I realized it is okay to be playing in the dirt. It is okay to enjoy the very simplest parts of the world, and more importantly, it is okay to be in love with nature.