The Language of Gardening

Gardening has its own language. Beyond the names of plants, beyond the techniques, beyond the personal styles. It’s something you can see and feel, as well as hear.

Yesterday, while I was at Lowes among the herb pots and onion sets, I met an older man who advised me not to purchase the frostbitten tomatoes because he didn’t think they’d “come back.” I assured him that I wouldn’t, especially because I had dozens of seedlings of my own, maturing nicely under my grow lights.

Thus began a thirty minute conversation on everything gardening. I shared with him what was going on in my garden, how I was learning and growing as a gardener. He advised me not to neglect talking to farmers and long-time gardeners for my learning. I assured him that I get regular advice from a coworker who has a family farm, and that I am always looking for those with a seasoned green thumb.

When I said that, his face lit up, and he began to pour out his knowledge. He was a research chemist, retired from the Department of Agriculture; and he told me how to protect my garden from frost using soda bottles filled with water, how to plant strawberries so they’ll keep flowering, and why I should plant elephant garlic (for its great productivity).

Among the pots and plants heralding the coming of spring, two generations shared a common language – a love for the soil and things that grow. It was the joy on his face and the excitement in his voice as he expounded his wisdom to me, an eager recipient of his bequest. Our conversation finished, he walked away with a spring in his step, knowing he’d sown into the next generation the love that will keep the art of gardening alive. And I walked away a richer person because of it.

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