What Makes A Gardener? They Share Common Traits

Patience and hope are necessary traits

By Lorna Carlisle

Many gardeners share traits that make them well suited for gardening. We are a hopeful lot.  Who else would take a seed, that is sometimes the size of a pepper flake, put it in the soil and assume it will produce a plant?  

Gardeners also have patience. We spend a lot of time waiting for Spring to come, for the soil to warm, for the seeds to arrive, and for seedlings to sprout. The expectation can be half the fun.  We check our plantings every day, searching for the tiniest break in the soil. Hurrah!  We trust that this miniscule stem will grow into a mighty tomato plant. 

Each day we appreciate the new growth as its first true leaves appear or it adds each additional inch of height. Just like kids who are excited to see a new mark on the wall showing their latest height, we gardeners marvel at our plants reaching closer to the grow lights. We keep checking the predictions of when the last frost might be and anticipate planting outside as much as some people count the days until Christmas.  

Each Spring is a new birth. Where to plant? What to plant? How much to plant? Speaking of how much to plant – most gardeners are guilty of exuberance. Luckily, we also like to share with others. However, we generally can’t abide not taking care of each seedling once it sprouts.  Knowing there are too many tomato plants, we still can’t bring ourselves to pull up the extras and throw them away. Even adding them to the compost pile will elicit pangs of regret. In our hearts, we know we can’t take care of them all but we’re sure going to give it our best try.  

Windowsills or rooms fill with expectation. Green allure everywhere. We can’t help ourselves. Once Spring finally arrives, the race begins. It’s hard not to rush our plants outside, but there is the hardening off period. More waiting. The tender seedlings need to be brought in and out for increasing periods of time to acclimate the plants. Wind or intense sun can destroy all our hard work. Find a protected area to limit strong winds or a partially shaded spot to begin.  

Remember what happens to humans on that first day at the beach after a winter of indoor activity? Sunburn! Plants aren’t able to cope with too much too soon. Talking to them helps as well. A little pep talk helps both the plant and the gardener. 

Finally, we’ve reached the point where the soil has warmed and the plants are ready to put down roots in their final home. We have to decide how much space each plant needs based on the plant’s ultimate size. Gardeners like organized rows and tidy spaces. 

Oh, how we start with the best of intentions. The weeds can take over. The pests munch. Diseases attack our plants. Yet, we remain resilient. No bug or fungus can defeat us! We vow to keep up with the weeds. Too much rain. Too little rain. Too little time. In spite of it all, we persevere. 

Eventually, the garden starts to reward our hard work. That first tender shoot of asparagus just melts in our mouths. Greens are fresher than anything store-bought. A newly pulled radish, sprayed with the hose, is a crunchy delight. We revel in the garden’s glory. Hope in abundance. Even our flowers offer serenity and beauty. 

As the season progresses, our joy and pride increase. As with all things nature, the cycle eventually turns a corner. The day length lessens. The temperatures are lower. Plants succumb to various vagaries. Weeds have invaded our space. Our hopes might have fizzled. Our patience is taxed. 

Then, as with every year, the gardens must be put to bed. Some of us are already busy planning for next year, even as plants are consigned to the compost heap. After all, what is a compost heap, but hope. Expectation, hope, persistence, and resilience are all in the gardener’s toolbox.  We live to plant another day.