It seems to me that folks who do gardening must be optimists. That’s a fairly broad conclusion but from what I can tell it’s almost axiomatic, that is, a fundamental truth. So what is an optimist?
Well according to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, “an optimistic person thinks the best possible thing will happen and hopes for it even if it’s not likely.” I suppose that definition is accurate enough but I kinda like some other descriptions. How about this one from that well-known source “anonymous”? “Optimism: A cheerful state of mind that enables a tea kettle to sing though in hot water up to its nose.”
Here’s another from the same source, “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” I kinda like that interpretation.
OK, so what makes a gardener, that is, someone who likes or is skilled at growing fruits, vegetables or flowers, an optimist? I got to thinking about that not long ago as I was working in what was formerly my tomato patch. Readers with extraordinary memories may recall that I have had very disappointing results from my tomato-growing efforts for the past several years. Furthermore, a number of people have told me they have had similar problems with their tomatoes.
Early in the season the plants appeared to be healthy with blossoms showing up on schedule but as the season went on there were very few tomatoes, the fruit (yes, tomatoes are classified as fruit) was small, and the plants kinda wilted. I tried different varieties and fertilizing schemes but nothing worked. I finally figured there must be a tomato wilt or blight in the ground itself so this year I have planted my tomatoes in a new raised bed that I have described in earlier columns – and so far everything looks absolutely great. Yep, despite past problems I’m optimistic about my tomato crop this year.
As for my “old” tomato patch, I could have simply let it go back to grass but instead I have converted it to growing both pole and bush beans as well as cucumbers. No sign of problems thus far. Hey, my tomato “calamity” may turn out to be an opportunity at diversifying my very limited vegetable gardening space.
Optimistic? You bet! Why else invest time, effort and resources in the project? Last year I decided to make up my own hanging flower planters instead of purchasing them. Using well-cleaned hanging pots I had kept from a previous year I filled them them with potting soil and planted geraniums which did very well – so well in fact that I decided to bring them indoors for the winter. I removed the hangers and placed the pots on a broad window ledge where they would get warmth and sun.
While I was at it I also dug up and re-potted some healthy impatiens and placed them on the window ledge as well – this despite pessimistic comments from others how the plants wouldn’t survive. Well, we had beautiful flowers on that window ledge all winter and I have just replanted both the geraniums and impatiens outside in tubs where they are doing quite nicely. Yep, gotta have positive thoughts when gardening.
We recently went shopping for materials and plants to revitalize one of our flower beds that was in need of resuscitation. Folks, the gardening nurseries were jam-packed with people getting garden soil, mulch, seeds, bedding plants, hanging flower planters, fertilizer, and potted plants big and small. (One facility provides free fertilizer water for those bringing their own containers and gallons of the stuff were being toted out by customers.)
I took the opportunity to speak with several customers about their gardens and they were eager to chat. What I found interesting was that everyone had such an optimistic attitude – expectations that the seeds would sprout, the vegetable plants would produce, and the flowers would provide beautiful blossoms. What was also evident was the realization that gardening involves work. Yep, taking care of plant life sometimes means getting dirty and sweaty, and chores such as watering and weeding can’t be neglected – but no one I talked with felt this was a problem.
Nope, it’s just part of gardening. You know, I have been wondering if a pessimist, a cynic, could ever have a garden. I’ve been trying to visualize a person who expects misfortune or the worst possible outcome ever planting a seed or rose bush. As the youngsters say, “No way!” Gardeners have to be optimists. That’s just the way it is. At least that’s how it seems to me.