Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…How Does Your Garden Grow?

Reader Contribution by Mary Niehaus Ralles

How DOES my garden grow?  Lately, that question isn’t as simple as it has been in the past. If we’re talking metaphorically, as in my life, it’s exploding and branching out in every direction. It’s a season for bumper crops and my dream of moving back to the country is finally coming into focus, with more definitive plans.

My boys just finished up school for the year and I’m in that short window of time to pack up the house and find a new place before mid-August. It is indeed “go time!”

You might recall a few weeks ago I decided to plant my garden, knowing that there was a good chance I wouldn’t be around to harvest it. I’m happy to report that while I won’t be here for the potatoes, onions, and some of my other late summer harvest, I have enjoyed some early sprouts like cayenne, banana, and bell peppers.

Due to some unpredictable spring weather, the tomatoes are just now starting to flower and the corn stalks are a mere 2-feet tall. The green beans are coming on strong, but nothing to pick just yet.

I find gardening to be a lot like life, where you spend a fair amount of time watching and waiting to pick the brightest berry or the ripest tomato. And, just like in life, sometimes we get impatient and pull something too early, realizing the mistake immediately.

In this very special window of time where I will continue to nurture my garden until I move, my most profound lesson has been to enjoy the growing season. And I’m not just talking about the plants growing outside. I have two boys growing like weeds every day. I have a better appreciation for the changes happening in their lives right now — growing past early childhood and turning into fine young men. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the shaping and molding of who they are and will become. I’m helping them to prepare for their own futures one day, where their fence lines won’t always be adjacent to my own. This time along the way is nothing short of amazing. I sometimes think that being a mom is the ultimate gift and the truest of gardens to mind and tend to. So much care goes into the attention you invest and you run the same risks as you do in your garden. Over-watering and too much of anything can result in stunting growth or preventing a plant from reaching its full potential. I see kids requiring that same moderation and constant consideration. If I give them too much, they will never learn to stand on their own two feet. If I don’t give them enough, they might not get off to a solid start and foundation with strong roots to grow from and build upon. 

Each morning, I look forward to taking a walk around my garden wall to see how my temporary garden is coming along. I have to resist the urge to snatch up my nearly-ripe veggies and simply appreciate the fact that I’ve played a role in nurturing them along the way. And in that same vein, I also have to resist the urge to coddle my boys or force a lesson on them that they need to learn on their own at a future date, perhaps even long after I am gone.

In my life and in all things, I am giving more consideration to my actions and behaviors. Sometimes it is enough to simply look at a piece of nearly ripe fruit, because I’ve lived long enough to know that it will be even sweeter once it has matured and ripened. And knowing when it’s ripe enough to pick is perhaps a bit subjective, depending upon individual taste. But that’s what makes life unique for all of us. I think some of the best parts of life revolve around finding beauty in the simplest of experiences and sharing that perspective with others. 

In the past, I’ve missed out on some of the simple treasures because I was too busy hurrying along, without enough thought and care into how I wanted to live my life. I have since taken on a more disciplined and perhaps deliberate approach, shifting gears from being at times merely an observer to becoming (growing into, perhaps,) a more adventurous explorer.

Instead of simply watching my garden grow, I am spending more time planning and considering planting choices, hence answering the age-old question, “How does your garden grow?” Contrary no more!

Mary Niehaus-Ralles

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