Growing a well-rounded garden is like writing a compelling novel or designing an aesthetically pleasing home or painting a lifelike landscape—except you get to eat the product. And when it’s all over you have to throw the leftovers to the compost heap and start fresh next season. So that leaves the gardener with a sort of rhythm: imagine, create, cultivate and scrap. Come to think of it, that’s more or less what any good artist, writer or designer is always doing.
So if gardening is like art why not call it art? Gardening is art. It feels good to read that. Gardening as art and the rhythms of it then, all have an intimate connection to a fruitful outcome—pun intended (sadly). Now that sprouts are digging into the air it’s a good time to imagine what might be. If you imagine well, you might end up with the envy of your neighborhood.
Imagination is hard though. Some people even claim they haven’t got it. But everyone does. Everyone has imagination if they take the time to cultivate it. The question becomes one of how to cultivate the mind to create.
You’ve already got your plants in the ground. You’re already in the rhythm of watering and keeping an eye out for weeds. What’s to imagine anyway? Well, for starters, can you imagine a budding tomato plant as tall as your head with all red, ripe toms on it? Can you envision a twenty-foot, curling vine of healthy, pest-free, waxy coated, bright cucumbers? Believe in the full-sized orange of a ripe, seed-filled pumpkin. Dream.
For every one gardener who chooses to take the adventure of a growing a nontraditional plant, there are ten who have given up on trying to get a plant to grow out of its natural environment. Can you imagine making it work? More importantly, can you dream up a solution for the thriving of that plant? If you live in the acid free Midwest where blueberries refuse to grow, do you have the gusto to take it to the soil?
There’s a secret to this kind of imaginative exercise. You’ve been taking it in since you started reading. It’s the process of asking questions. The odder you can make your question, the more likely it is to evoke a thriving imagination. But small, easy questions prime the mind and start you on the path to rich complex inquiries. Maybe, if you ask those questions this spring you’ll begin to have ideas to revolutionize your garden next year; maybe you’ll discover ways to make your garden thrive more this year.
When you next go into your garden, look at the layout and picture how it might change this year. Write down questions about how your layout is helping and hindering your produce. Discern what plants seem to thrive and ask why. Discern what plants seem to take a nosedive and beg, “Why?” Then follow your questions with research, notes and late nights. You’ll be glad you asked the questions when you begin to see the outcome. Imagination is the first rhythm of a good gardener and if you start now, you’ll have it in the bag by harvest.
About the Author
Jody Sperling is a contributing write for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club.