Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gardening 101

“Gardening” can be intimidating. Regardless of where you are in the process, there is always room for improvement. The great thing about gardening is that you can make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and still enjoy the process. It’s probably a fine time to emphasize that this is true of cultivating our own lives as well as cultivating plants and flowers. This might begin to read a bit cheesy but if you’ve ever been lost, you know what I mean.

We have to keep tilling, seeding, fertilizing, mulching, weeding and pruning. Unless you have an exotic rose bush, this might seem easy to do as an experienced gardener of which I am not. I learned, as many gardeners do, through trial and error. Believe me; I have made my share of mistakes. Here are a few tips that I have found to be helpful.

  1. Take care of your investment—YOU! If you’re not in a good place, get out. And for goodness sake, find a good therapist. I can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t underestimate talk therapy. Rediscovering yourself takes time and a good therapist will only encourage you to be the best version of you.
  2. Just as plants need space to grow, so do you. Space can be physical (an apartment, a house, a room! Virginia Woolf wrote an entire essay on this. Sandra Cisneros wrote a beautiful poem “A House Of My Own”) or it can be symbolic space (a journal, a block of time to go for a walk, a therapist’s office!).  As my life changed, I left a house and land to move into a small apartment. This is where I started gardening in pots. I knew nothing about gardening so the first plant I picked, I picked from what I affectionately call “the death and dying” section also known as the discount plants section. The plant I picked up was colorful but creepy. I learned it was a bromeliad, a tropical plant which I wasn’t actually aware of at the time. It turns out that bromeliads are “undemanding and easy to grow” a quick Google search tells me. I don’t recall searching for any care instructions at the time. I decided to wing it (the opposite of how I typically approach my life). I loved the bloom. What I didn’t realize is that bromeliadsbloom a single time… then they die. Great. Sigh. But wait! I did a bit of research and knew to look forward to “pups”, growing buds at the base of the leaves. These pups are ready to be separated when they are about half the size of the mother plant and should be removed by cutting with a sharp knife or clippers as close to the mother plant as possible. I had no idea that I would be performing surgery. Nevertheless, I ended up with three pups after the mother passed away. I would be lying if I wrote that this didn’t break my heart but with the pups came new flowers and new pups; and, all Goths know that Death is part of Life.
  3. Not all plants require the same amount of fertilizer or water. I learned that I’m a “slow processor” so when I am hurt or upset, it takes me quite a while to understand why.
  4. Pay attention to your climate. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones with each zone being 10°F warmer (or colder) than the adjacent zone. I require a great deal of indirect sunlight. I lived in Massachusetts for a while and could not hack it. It was overcast and dreary. My little Goth heart needs sunlight… just not direct sunlight. I always use a parasol when I go for walks which I enjoy doing in town to look at the various Victorian style homes and in my favorite garden cemetery, Hollywood Cemetery.
  5. As I mentioned before, know that sometimes it is trial and error. I think I’ll pick up on that another day.  

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