When you fall in love late in life, it is almost as if you have stumbled upon a stone on the ground only to pick it up and realise you have had a ruby all along-hiding in plain sight. At a certain age in life, you can begin to think that there are things that you are now too old for. Like being so consumed and overtaken by a new love that it is all you think about. Waking up thinking about your love and you spend as many hours as you can in their company. This is how it was for me then I fell in love with gardening…..
I have always loved vegetables, especially green leafy veggies –muriwo in Shona. I even earned the nickname “Veggie Monster” from my little brother because I could often be found standing in front of the refrigerator chomping away at the leftover veggies. I eat all MY vegetables and if they don’t want them..everybody else’s too. But..even though both my mom and dad come from gardening and farming stock and my mom always kept a big and healthy garden, at no point in my childhood or early adulthood did I even entertain the idea of joining my mom in her vegetable garden. I disliked mud and getting dirty and besides, books and television were far more interesting. The few times my parents managed to cajole and if necessary force me to help out in the garden I would slink away as soon as I could. My philosophy was that there are some who grow ( and those who eat(me and a small group of others like me). Nyakudya (the one that eats)-that’s me.
Fast forward to a few months short of my forty third birthday. I decided to start gardening because I wanted to eat organic, put less chemicals in my body and not just me. I wanted my son -a year old at the time – to grow up eating healthy food and since it can be difficult to get kids to eat vegetables, I thought that if I could get him to join me, it would make eating vegetables easier We could have mummy and sonny time and …it might even be fun.
Honestly I did not expect to come to love it so much. To make my way to the garden with my coffee first thing every day and when I could spend hours on end with my hands stuck in the soil, oblivious to the world around me. The contentment. The satisfaction of following a plant from seed to fully grown vegetables. Watching and waiting for the shoots to break ground. Then helping the plant to reach full maturity I have found that there are few feelings as satisfying as eating food that you have literally grown yourself. And the taste of food that has travelled the shortest distance from the garden to the pot and to your plate? It is amazing…!!
Me starting to garden was the beginning of an awfully big adventure that continues to this day. Or should I stay an awfully big obsession as I sought to find out as much as I could about this new love of mine. Another whole world opened up in front of me which of course had been there all along, only I wasn’t paying attention. I joined gardening groups on Facebook and googled everything about gardening that I could. I tried all the gardening hacks that I had never heard of before. Trellising, companion planting, making compost tea (what!!) Yeah it’s a thing. You can make tea for your plants out of all sorts of things – plants (lawn clippings, comfrey and stinging nettle for example), compost and manure. It smells bloody awful but your plants will love it and if you are doing organic farming it’s the way to go. Who knew!? There was so much to discover as I dug, weeded and planted away.
I spent so much time in the garden that my partner who I was living with at the time complained that I had more time for the garden than for him. I am not sure that I agree with that but I know that gardening helped me think through the relationship challenges and other problems I was facing at the time. t? I discovered something I hadn’t known before. Gardening is like free therapy and I would walk out to the garden with my head in a whole big mess hours later, after burying my thoughts in the ground I would come back feeling so much better. Apparently there is a microbe in soil that helps with depression. Gardening is meditative and not only that, it counts as a form of moderate exercise.
I remember sniggering when I first read about Prince Charles talking to his plants. You know what? Now I totally get it. I often think of my plants as my green babies. And when I walk in the garden in the morning, I am not just admiring my gardening skills. I am checking on the state of the plants and trying to see which ones need help and what kind of help. Some might need pruning, some need help with pest infestation, weeds or if it’s really hot, the plants need a nice cool drink. Before I started gardening, I loved September and October because I am one of those people who would rather be hot than cold and those are our hottest months. Now I dread this time because this is usually the time when the garden – and my green babies- really struggles due to the extreme heat. Of course this year it’s been a little bit different. The weather has been so inconsistent. We’ve had too much rain interspersed by some pretty hot days So either the plants are struggling because the roots are drowning in too much water or they are malnourished because the rain is taking away nutrients from the soil or they are literally being sunburnt. It’s been sad.
I could literally go on and on about gardening but I have said enough. Like any endeavour, gardening is not for everyone but if it has ever crossed your mind to try it, I encourage you to start today. And even if it hasn’t, try it for the sake of trying something new. You might fall in love like I did and go on to derive a lot of ch pleasure (and food!!) from it. Or at least when I or other gardeners start waxing lyrical about it, you will at least understand a little of what drives us when we talk about gardening. I mean look at me. One of the things that fascinates me about plants is how they grow, especially under the soil. How does a small seed grow to be a plant that nourishes so many so often. And plants are ever so resilient. You could look at a small seedling the morning after it has been transplanted, bent over and at the mercy of the big bad world. Months later you are eating the delicious produce from that plant. And not just once but many times over. If plants could talk and communicate I would ask them, how on earth do you do that. Unfortunately they cannot. This is why in my next life, I want to be a plant. So I can find out for myself. The question is..which one? There are so many to choose from!!