My friend, Jennette, said to me one day when I was grumbling about not being a gardener, “You learn how to garden by gardening.” It seemed pretty simplistic to me. I didn’t point out to her that I’ve had my porch garden for the past 20 years and still didn’t think of myself as a “Gardener.” I get the basics but nothing seems to quite come out the way I
thought it would. In DC, I inherited the garden from the woman who lived upstairs. When she moved, she knew her worthless boyfriend wouldn’t look after it, so it became mine. I always loved going out in the spring and cleaning things out and seeing what came up from the previous year. Since DC, unlike Toronto, does not have a winter that goes until May, most things did resurrect. They did it all by themselves with no help from me. By the end of the summer, I had neglected the garden enough that I wouldn’t even admit to anyone that I actually had one.
When I moved up here to Toronto, my only gardening space was my porch. I ignored it the first year, but then, when the next spring came around I got that overwhelming urge to get my fingers in dirt. It was a major effort. Pots had to be purchased, soil carted up the 23 stairs to the apartment, plants to be selected and bunged into the earth. I loved it. I picked all my nostalgic favourites which were great for DC but not so good for Toronto where the growing season is a tad shorter. Also, I always had a hankering to grow vegetables but not too careful about checking things like how many hours of direct sunlight they’d get. Needless to say, I wasn’t eating off the bounty of my crops, that’s for sure.
For the past few years, my good friend, Steven, has come over to help me pot and compost and do all kinds of good things for my plantings. I would just sit back and let him be “The Gardener” and try to learn from watching rather than dirtying my fingers. But this year, he
was too busy to make it over earlier, so I decided I would do it myself. I spent days digging up the soil in the pots and working in compost. This seemed very much what a “gardener” would do. Then, every day when I passed the convenience store with racks and racks of plants, I would get one or two and come home and bung them into my composted earth. For the first time in all my years of trying to garden, I felt confident that just maybe, this year, I was doing it right.
To finish the job, Steven came over today to move things around and do what he is exceptional at
doing — arranging my hodgepodge of different sizes and shapes of pots into little “gardens” on the porch. By the time he was finished, he had taken all my plantings of the week and created an oasis for my short summer.
Jennette was right, of course. If you want to become a gardener, you just have to keep trying and one day it will happen. Now let’s hope I’m diligent enough about carrying those buckets of water out on the porch all summer to keep it green.