It happens to me almost every time I dig and plant a new garden. Surely I’m not the only one, right? The temporary anticlimax.
You get inspired for a very particular new garden. You find its location, define its purpose, and prepare the soil. Perhaps, as has been the case with this new herb bed here at the farm, you do most of that in the off season; so for months you also stare longingly at the blank site, daydreaming of its eventual fullness and productivity. Piling on dried manures and whispering words of affirmation to the infant garden, you begin to see it in its most mature state, its maximum and most perfect condition. All far in advance, every time you pass by. Where there is only dirt in reality, your hopeful eyes perceive bushels of glossy basil, armfuls of zinnias, several mountains of rosemary, and sprays of every colorful herb you’ll ever need to make your own sleepy time tea. Your nose inhales, also in advance, every sweet and savory fragrance known to man since before time.
You plan to sell your wares at the area farmer’s market because, obviously, you will be growing far more than you need. Because it’s already the most lovely and magical garden ever in all the world.
You may scribble down blueprints and sketch curvy borders and make lists on your i-Phone of what to buy the very minute it’s safe to plant. You find yourself helpless with seed catalogs, whether they belong to you or not, highlighting, circling, and boldly asterisk-ing key items every chance you get. As if the writing of a wish is also its coming to fruition. Because you did read The Secret, after all.
On the weekend you can finally plant, you eagerly run through one last soil clearing, savoring the crunch of your spade as it slices through stubborn volunteer crabgrass. You shake weedy roots free of dirt and celebrate every fat earthworm that wriggles through the black gold left there.
So much potential. You just can’t stop singing the praises of slow food, organic methods, and the glory of working outdoors. Your legs are so strong and motivated you think you can dig a hundred gardens.
Then the day arrives.
The soil is cleaned and warm. The plants have been purchased. The weather is ideal. Your new garden plan is about to come together. Like you’re the horticulture A-Team or something. (And who am I to say you’re not?)
You dig, scrape, level, arrange, plant, rearrange, water, scrape again, and survey your little outdoor art project over and over.
Your geese come to inspect your progress and play in the sprinkler. Your cat rolls in the fresh dirt. You lower back gets a skinny, crescent shaped sunburn from that weird leaned-over gardener’s stance you’ve held for two days straight. And when you finally stand up to stretch and see it for the first time with new eyes… To dust off and drink in the beauty of what your imagination, knowledge, and physical labor have joined forces to create…
Everything looks tiny.
Almost so tiny it kind of irritates you.
The chamomile plant has withered a bit too much.
Some unnamed farm citizen, but clearly someone who has feathers and a beak and only two legs, has nibbled all but a third of the chocolate-mint leaves. Did you plant those rosemary starts too close together? Wait, where is the basil? I forgot basil? Should I have staggered those annuals, or is color blocking indeed the way to go? Can I even see all of this from the kitchen sink?
Is it just the glaring angle of the late afternoon sun? Because something about this looks out of scale. You are pretty sure those plants were all at least three times as big in the dining room yesterday. This is definitely not right.
You begin to question yourself in every possible way. Why do you even bother gardening? Just buy your food like a normal person and go watch t.v.
You hope your Momma or Grandpa don’t drop in for a farm visit, because this would be embarrassing. You certainly don’t put any of this on Instagram. Nope, that would not inspire a single person to try her own gardening adventure. It would be like trying to lure people to Christianity with meanness and judgement. Not cool.
Then Tiny T walks over and has a talk with you.
He wraps his tiny, muscled arm around your slumped shoulders and says exactly what you need to hear.
“Yo. This is just day one, man. Your garden plans are good, this soil is golden like my chains, and our summer is going to be amazing. Just give it some time and chill, baby. I pity the fool who thinks gardening is a sprint and not a marathon.”
“Thanks, Tiny T. Seriously, you always know just what to say.”
Then all is right with the world and you go off to make more coffee and design the next new garden.