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Gardening Lessons | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Gardening Lessons

Today’s the day my kids’ small garden gets judged in a countywide 4-H contest. They have participated in this contest the past 5 years, won it once and won reserve champion last year. Because we’re urban gardeners, we only enter the small garden division because we just don’t have the space to be competitive in the large division. We have a larger garden on the other side of our double lot backyard, but our neighbor’s shade trees reduce its food production.

This is not going to be a winning year. Our only shot at being competitive is that perhaps the other entries have struggled through the wet spring like we did. In early spring, during record floods and rainfall, our back yard looked like a lake. On the day of the worst rain, the entire yard was underwater except the high spot where my daughter keeps her backyard chickens. I began searching for a temporary home if we had to evacuate them.

2010 Garden Entry, Reserve Champion Winner

The water receded. Slowly, the ground dried enough to be tilled. We cleared it one Sunday evening in anticipation of its being ready to till Monday morning. That night, another 2 inches of rain fell. A week later, the garden was finally tilled, and we raced to plant. A few days after that, we were able to plant the large garden as well. We barely got it planted when the rain began again.

The garden survived. Normally, the week before our contest judging, the kids prepare the garden to ensure everything is mulched, weeds are gone, and all is well tended. Last week, during a hard rain, water briefly stood in the entire garden again. They couldn’t get into it because their weight would compact the soil. Yesterday, it was borderline dry, and they did what they could.

2008 Small Garden Contest Entry

Later today, a judge will arrive to inspect the garden and ask questions. It won’t be our best year.

The best prize we’ll get this year is in character development. When circumstances are tough, don’t quit. Make the best of what you have and work as much as you can. And in the words of every farmer since time began, remember…

There’s always next year. We can try again.

2 Responses to “Gardening Lessons”

  1. Wayne McEvilly June 28, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    You wouldn’t believe how much inspiration your blog post generated here this morning. Stories such as this are so universally applicable that even those of us for whom ‘gardening’ means keeping a few plants on a downtown city balcony can take heart from the lesson you spell out with such clarity –
    ‘The best prize we’ll get this year is in character development.’
    Thank you.

    • Mary Biever June 29, 2011 at 5:45 am #

      Wayne, I always appreciate your encouragement – on anything from Plato in a cave to a garden.

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