How Does Your Garden Grow?

Mistress Mary, Quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells, And Cockle Shells,
And so my garden grows.

–English Nursery Rhyme

I’m no master gardener, that’s for sure. I recently bought a plant at the nursery who’s little instruction card reads: “Thrives on neglect.” That about sums up my gardening ability.

However, my family is entwined in gardening, as my husband is a career gardener; I also remember my grandmother’s amazing gardening skills. I have chosen an alternate path: to travel a short distance to the farmer’s market where I can purchase a rainbow of goodness in minutes, rather than spend months nurturing and weeding and waiting–and then waiting some more– for the same goodness. I tend to wait for a lot of things in my life– I wait for a day of feeling good, the whole day; I wait for a day where we feel financially secure, a day where a surprise bill doesn’t show up in our mailbox; I wait for a day when I can see family and friends again that I’ve missed for so many days…. So I decided long ago that I didn’t want to wait ANY days for some dang fruits and vegetables.

And then, my kids grew to the age they are now, and something happened: they went to an elementary school in nature-loving Seattle and learned about gardening from their teachers and came home singing Pete Seeger: “Inch by inch, row by row… Gonna make our garden grow…” And now, they want me to garden with them. Since I would do pretty much anything within reason to make my sweet kiddos happy– we are now novice gardeners.

While I stated that I am no expert gardener, I am for sure an expert shopper, so I had great fun with that part. The kids and I traveled to various home improvement centers where I purchased cute floral printed gardening gloves and exotic sounding seed varieties. I even purchased a TROWEL. (Impressive that I even know what a trowel is, no?) I learned which things I could grow from seed, which were better to purchase as starts, and which to plant nearly full-grown. The kids were thrilled… I was willing, at least… and then we began.

Were our rows of seeds straight? As I discovered after 7 days of sun and water, no. No, they were not straight at all. More like clusters than rows, really. Did I leave enough space between the plants? Probably not. But we saw GREEN in the midst of brown dirt, and that was good enough for us. And honestly, checking up on the garden each day in the warm sunshine– spraying drops of water down on each little plant– ended up being such a nice stress-reliever and a way to forget about worrisome things, even if it was for only a few minutes.

Several months have passed since our endeavor began, and I’ve noticed things. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I had gardens where I didn’t even realize I had them. According to, “garden” is defined as “a plot of ground, usually near a house, where flowers, shrubs, vegetables, fruits, or herbs are cultivated.” OK, well, by that definition, the not-so-attractive mound of shrubs near our shed turned out to be “a garden of delicious raspberries.”

The neglected bed in the front yard full of weeds that my husband and I “forgot” to pull? One day, I caught a glimpse of red beneath the tangles of green– a huge bed of strawberries! What a welcome surprise– I love berries of any type.

The discovery of the berries leads me to the second thing I’ve noticed: despite the weeds, despite my neglect, the plants still grew. And produced. And gave us delicious fruit. Do you happen to feel that a point is about to be made?

Because my reader/writer mind always feels the overwhelming need to craft a connection to a moral regarding my discoveries, here is the realization: despite my thoughts running in crooked rows along the paths of my brain; despite the weeds of worry that continuously clog up my coherent thoughts; despite forgetting to give myself enough water and sun at times– I am still a whole, complete, valid person. The strawberries that grew in my weed-infested garden taste just as delicious as the strawberries you can buy at the market that were grown in pristine conditions on a farm. And so the hope springs forth that my creation, my talents, and my efforts will matter to someone whether they emerge from underneath a bed of weeds or from a professionally manicured thatch of earth. We plant seeds the best we can, with love and with care, and then, we trust that something beautiful might come from them. We utter this little prayer that Pete Seeger penned: “Inch by inch, row by row, please bless these seeds I sow. Please keep them safe below ’til the rain comes tumbling down.”