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‘Oh well’ moments in the garden

I had two “oh well” moments in the garden this week. One, I’ll call the “potato moment”, the other, the “carrot moment”.

First, the potato moment. What had started out as a potato peeling in the compost had transformed into a triffid in the vegie patch. So leafy was this surprise resident that it was shading out the other vegies and herbs, the ones I’d planted. So, I was happy to sacrifice it. And let’s face it, there was always the promise of some fresh spuds as a bonus. Out it came.

That’s when I noticed the three teeny, tiny potatoes that the plant had been harbouring below ground. By the time I’d have scrubbed them and cut out the icky bits, there wouldn’t have been enough for a mouse snack, let alone a human dinner.

Was I disappointed? Not really. It would have been great to show off my garden produce, to savour the taste of homegrown vegies. But seeing as I hadn’t invested any time or effort in cultivating the plant, I borrowed a phrase from UK comedian Catherine Tait. I wasn’t all that bovvered. That was the first of the “oh well” moments.

Bugs Bunny
Just a few days later, my daughter was eager to pull up the carrots, the trigger for the carrot moment. I had visions of her chomping on them Bugs Bunny style. I would congratulate myself on how clever I was and maybe, if my daughter left me some, I’d even get to taste them myself. I figured that they’d been in the ground for around 100 days, which garden lore says is about the time that carrots take to cook, so out they came.

I’d like to say I said “Oh well” and meant it, just like I did with the potato moment. But I really said “oh well” to shield my daughter from an angry tirade and some (mild) swearing.

“I can’t believe it,” I would have said if my mummy filter hadn’t been on. “After all that bloody effort, is this all I get?”

I wasn’t expecting prizewinning carrots, or even ones that looked like the ones in the shops. But I was expecting something more than these:

Homegrown carrots ... grown in a no-dig garden for more than 100 days. Mmm. Disappointed

Homegrown carrots … in the ground for about 100 days. Mmm. Disappointed. Just 4cm long

While I wasn’t expecting miracles, I was expecting my carrot plants to honour their side of the unwritten contract of the vegie patch. I tend, you grow. Obviously, I didn’t tend enough, or in quite the right way, or for long enough. They went on strike. And you’ve seen the results.

As an aside, this image makes the carrots look much more appealing than I remember. I remember the carrots were a wan, sickly orange not this robust Fanta.

After my two very different “oh well” moments, I began to reflect on what had happened.

Is the answer to harmony in the garden to expect nothing from your plants? I grappled with this for a while, but I couldn’t imagine myself taking this stance. Gardeners plant things so they grow. They expect this will be the natural course of events. I can’t imagine lowering my expectations so much that I would see ANYTHING that grows as a bonus.

Is the answer to harmony on the garden to abandon the unwritten contract of the vegie patch? To uncouple the effort I put in from the expectation that something will grow? I can’t quite see that happening either. Isn’t it human nature to want to be rewarded for your efforts?

Is the answer to care less about the outcome and more about the process? Look, I’d like to buy this. But nah, I can’t quite see it. I want results, damn it.

Is it to just not care? Show me a gardener that doesn’t care about his or her plants and I’ll think about it. Until then, I care, all right?

Or to care a little less? I’m leaning towards this but am still not entirely convinced.

So, now I’m not just disappointed with the carrots, I’m disappointed in the way I’m exploring my disappointment. Not catastrophically disappointed. Mildly peeved should just about cover it.

I could just shut up and dig. But I’d rather hear your thoughts on garden disappointments and how you dealt with them.

Top image: George Hodan

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have always wanted a lavender plant in the middle of my garden and this year I finally splurged on a nice big one. I put it right in the middle. We ended up with the wettest June in years which was terrible for my desert-native flowers but very good for my tomatoes which completely smothered my poor purple beauty. I am thankful for the abundance but it is always a little sad when something in the garden doesn’t work out well.

    September 2, 2013
    • Thanks for sharing. At least your tomatoes thrived! On a related note, do you think that you need to be an optimist before you start gardening? Or do you think we become optimists through the process of gardening?

      September 2, 2013
      • Interesting question. I like the quote, by Audrey Hepburn, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” So, maybe, gardening fans the little spark of optimism in all our hearts and helps it grow.

        September 2, 2013
  2. I have written before about how I think of the produce as a “bonus” to the experience of gardening. I enjoy the process, the learning, the photographing (isn’t that cheery picture of the carrots worth as much as eating the carrots?) and the millions of other lessons to be learned in the garden. That being said, we do have a vegetable garden, not a flower garden, so there is certainly a component of expectation regarding produce. I’ve always had a hard time with carrots and mine usually look like yours (or smaller!) and yet I continue to grow them.

    September 2, 2013
    • Thanks for your comments. You’re certainly right about the photo. When I look back on the experience in a year’s time, I won’t remember the disappointment, just the fact that something grew at all! But something else came out of the experience. My carrot moment prompted me to read more about what I’d do better next time. And that took the edge of my disappointment. So, like you, I will try again and let’s see what happens. .Yay, to optimism and working your way out of a funk! Thanks for nudging me along.

      September 2, 2013

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