I was trying to decide what to write my blog post about, and I couldn’t decide between a post about the animals in the garden or gardening alone or what I’ve learned this summer. I chose what I’ve learned this summer, but I do touch on the value of gardening with a team. For your pleasure, I will include some photos of our favorite rabbit friend (we affectionately refer to him as Tom, short for Tomato Basil SLUG) at the end of this post. Enjoy!
SLUG: Something Learned, Used Greatly
I’ve never gardened alone. Sure, I’ve been pruning tomatoes while Elana, Nicole, and Jenny were in another part of the garden fixing a fence. Or, I got to my spring term compost day early so I filled a wheelbarrow with wood chips, but I never gardened alone. I think there’s a couple of reasons for this, mainly, I was a freshman with no experience and I wasn’t fully confident enough in my skills to be able to take initiative and do something. I had a huge fear of messing something up. I could over water, under water, pull the plants instead of the weeds, walk on the beds, shovel the wrong compost, put something in the wrong place in the shed, or a litany of other things that would ruin something in the garden. Luckily, this summer I’ve learned some valuable skills that have given me the confidence to be able to garden alone and with a team. I would like to share some with you.
Plant vs. Weed Identification
Yes, it seems weird, but my biggest fear was pulling the plant instead of the weeds. I love Kale and Lettuce, so of course I would know what they looked like, right? And no one eats anything super pointy so that has to be a weed, right? After spending countless power hours this summer pulling weeds, I’m certain that I can tell the difference between food and weed. The thistle are the pointy ones, burdock have the big leaves close to the ground, the jade is kind of a vine with the thick succculent-y leaves, and crab grass is the worst and just looks like grass. None of these descriptions match kale, chard, tomatoes, or beets. Thankfully, the only thing that I accidentally pulled was some mint, which Nicole nicely pointed out to me was not what we wanted to remove. It’s sort of silly that I had this fear.
Another weird idea that I’ve learned, but learning how to be gentle with people and plants was a very helpful lesson this summer. Full disclosure: I never considered myself a morning person. The earliest I’ve ever needed to wake up regularly was 6:45 a.m. By 6:45 a.m. in the garden, we’re usually well into our weeding power hour. It was pretty difficult to coax myself to wake up at such an early hour, especially since it’s difficult to see the payoff of our work while we’re gardening. It’s a little frustrating. There’s a few more frustrating things like blight, plants being eaten, plants bolting, plants not flowering, and if I really thought about it, I could write an entire blog post of small garden frustrations. I learned to keep my wits about myself and not get angry at other people for issues that none of us could have controlled. Also, it’s a good idea to be gentle with tomato plants. Those guys are very temperamental.
The Value of “I can do this”
As I mentioned, I’m not a morning person. But, the phrase “I can do this” got me through a lot of mornings. I’m not going to lie, there were times where I wanted to sit in the shed and drink water for 15 minutes, or make up an excuse for why I had to leave early or miss a day, but just saying to myself “I can do this” gave me the confidence in myself to be able to push through. It’s something I tell myself as I stare at a hill full of weeds, or a bed full of blighted tomatoes, or 3 beehives full of bees trying to get to their honey,or laying in my bed at 5:30 a.m. convincing myself to get out of bed. This summer I learned, no matter what the task is, I can do this.
The Value of Gardening with a Team
I’m now confident enough that I could garden on my own, but I don’t know if I would want to do it voluntarily. One of the things that I think is amazing about SLUG is the way that the organization continues itself. Students are only at Lawrence for 4 or 5 years, and SLUG has continued to thrive with such a quick turnover of volunteers. The secret is that the more experienced SLUGgers teach the new SLUGgers all of the tricks to gardening. Elana, Nicole, and Jenny were my teachers this summer helping me to learn the correct way of keeping the garden producing, and along the way, forming new friendships. This teaching is what makes SLUG such a strong community. While I did listen to a lot of music and RadioLab while gardening this summer, the conversations that we had while weeding were some of the most genuine conversations that I’ve had with people at Lawrence. I couldn’t imagine doing anything that I did this summer without those ladies.
I learned a lot this summer about myself, the garden, the bees, and my co-gardeners. With only a few weeks left of the summer, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. Except maybe try beets earlier. Turns out, I love beets!
As promised, here’s some pictures of Tom: