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Under the Arbor Issue 28
May 22, 2022

~ Gardens Don't Come with a Warranty ~

(...Or Do They?)

We had a killing, unseasonable frost last night. We got most everything covered, but it started me thinking about difficult years past, and how we managed to get through them.

A garden doesn't come with a warranty, and isn't covered by insurance. Built by the sweat of our brow in partnership with a whole participating ecosystem, when killing frost (or hail, tornado, fire or drought) devastate it - along with our hearts - complaining to the manufacturer doesn't help much.

Or does it? It's an opportunity to remind ourselves that love is eternal, life is made of love, and life always sprouts back up somewhere, even if in another form.

So in truth, there IS a warranty. All gardens are covered by the eternal life force that rises again, inexorably, over and over, throughout all time.

Do We Grow Gardens, or Do Gardens Grow Us?

All gardens teach patience… some years more so than others. In these times of global weather unpredictability, we gardeners are called upon to believe in the power of love and life to endure, to rise and grow again. It just might not be on our preferred schedule.

One year I was in my garden, the most "picture-perfect" garden I had ever grown. My neighbor Sam came over to talk to my husband, and while we were standing outside Sam mentioned how beautiful the garden was. I said "You know, this is the first year in all my years of gardening that I finally feel like I'm in control". It was late June, and everything was in its teenage prime, vibrant and glowing with life.

I left for work, and drove into a hailstorm of such ferocity that I had to take shelter, watching a small tornado form over the hills to the west. When I got to work, I phoned home. "Is there anything left?"

"Not much" was the reply.

Driving home after work, the dirt road up the canyon to our house was completely covered by a 2" thick layer of shredded cottonwood leaves. My garden looked like it had been through a blender, with no piece of green bigger than ¼" covering the surface. A few 4-6" long spears of tubular zucchini stems jutted defiantly up out of the ground.

On my knees, I cried and cried, not because I wouldn't have zukes or tomatoes in the fall, but because the feeling inside was like the deep grief of losing a relationship with a beloved. Call me weird (it wouldn't be the first time I've heard it), but perhaps some of you can relate.

The garden that year taught me many things:

1) I have never again said the words "I feel like I am in control" (about anything)

2) The pounding of hail on the ground is a call for earthworms to surface and chow down. After dark the garden was covered by thousands of night crawlers on the surface, having a feast. I now understand why "worm grunting" works, and also why my ducks stamp their feet in mud puddles.

3) I saw an earthworm take the tip of an onion sprout into its mouth. In about 5 seconds it spit it back out. Apparently, earthworms don't like onions.

4) Even without replanting, most of the garden came back from the roots, which were well-established before the storm. I harvested tomatoes, zucchini, kale, chard and a few other things. And the marigolds sang in joy all summer.

5) We suffer less if we don't resist change, and acknowledge its power to help us grow. We can focus on the needs of the present, and use the power of love to continue nurturing life in its ever-unfolding abundance.


Vegetable Garden Guru is dedicated to the renewal of regenerative, sustainable, organic vegetable gardening around the world. May we become gardeners of healthful, nutrient-dense food, careful stewards of soil, and may the plants we tend remind us to always keep growing toward the Light.

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