Why I rejected the garden that I can’t wait to have

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Ominous gardener husband says: Don't you want to garden with me?
Ominous gardener husband says: Don’t you want to garden with me?
It’s Spring, which means the scrawny potted Japanese Maple that lives on my balcony is coming back to life, and I’m once again wishing I had a yard in which to plant it and watch it thrive.

Every spring I wished for a garden of my own, on my own little plot of land. Then one year, for my birthday, that guy I married suggested that he’d get me a plot at a community garden, citing my obsession with having my own garden one day.

At first my reaction was “Aw… what a thoughtful idea.” And then my reaction was that of dread.

WTF, Megan?

After sitting with the idea for about a month — putting off his suggestions of going and checking out garden plots every weekend — I realized there’s something wrong here. I don’t want this thing that I thought I wanted. But why not?

Then I realized… it’s because I dread the idea of having another thing to take care of.

I already have a husband and therefore a marriage to maintain, two dogs, and a cat, two websites, and a career, a two-bedroom apartment, two cars, several houseplants, and myself. I just didn’t want more living things that need my attention and care on my plate. I look at my weekly schedule, and there’s ONE day in the week where I don’t have an appointment of some kind for either my health, my relationship, or my job.

At first I felt bad for rejecting what would have been a sweet birthday gift that would possibly give my husband and I a project to work on together. Aaron has since gone on to get a garden plot for himself and he seems to be enjoying it. But I admit it, I’m glad I don’t have to drive several miles with him, after work, or instead of breakfast with friends, to tend to it.

I tell myself that, when I finally get that home I’ve been craving, I’ll create some space in the yard for a garden then. That way, even though it will be another THING to take care of, I at least won’t have to sit in traffic in order to do so. I’ll lump that into the “houseplants” category of “bitches that need my TLC.” And I’ll be happy that it’s my own garden in my own private space where I can garden bra-less and in my jammies if I want.

A few weeks after rejecting the garden idea, I was feeling pretty shitty about it, and spent some time with my sister. I then watched her and her husband chase and wrangle their daughters from sun-up to sun-down. Just watching them was making me all kind of stressed out and anxious. I sat back and thought, once again, that I was thankful to be child-free. And then I realize that, while having a garden is not like having a human child, that child-care-induced stress helped me to realize that I ultimately made the right choice in having one less thing to take care of. And I no longer feel bad for rejecting that very thoughtful gift from my husband.

It took Aaron a while to understand why I seemed to change my mind. We talked it out, and he understands now. The upside is that he’s having a good time “bringing home the tomatoes,” which he’d NEVER have realized he enjoys doing if I hadn’t have planted the garden idea in his head (all puns intended.)

Then for my birthday the next year Aaron, gifted me a fossil, and it makes me ridiculously happy every day — no care necessary.

Homies who are getting into the spirit of Spring: are you planting away? Or are you with me in staying “garden-free”?

Comments on Why I rejected the garden that I can’t wait to have

  1. I completely understand not wanting to drive somewhere to take care of a garden plot— I’m the same way. As such, in my current apartment, I have like 8 bazillion house plants that take up basically all of my available window sills and sunny spots. But! I’m going to be moving in mid-late May to a new townhouse with my boyfriend, and we will have a nice little patio in back with a bit of space to garden right there. I am super excited, but also worried, because I know that May is kind of late to start planting. I’m thinking I’ll just buy slightly more mature plants rather than starting from seeds, but I’m still a bit nervous that they won’t do very well. I live in the central Midwest, so it stays hot until early October sometimes, but my understanding is that some plants just do better when they are planted earlier in the season. Anyone have any suggestions for plants that do better starting somewhat later in the season?

    • You’ll be fine! Here in the Great White North (southern Ontario, Canada), we don’t plant most things until Victoria Day weekend, around the end of May — that’s when the risk of frost is gone for us. For longer-season things such as tomatoes, peppers, and onions, I’d suggest starting with seedlings (there are lots at local farmers’ markets here, as well as garden centres), but there are still a bunch of things you can plant from seed in late-May, and even later into summer — lettuce, spinach, peas, beans, carrots (if you have enough space for those to be worthwhile…), beets, zucchini, cucumbers, squash (again, *lots* of space required — or grow it vertically!), dill, cilantro… The main thing with planting later is that your produce won’t be ready quite as soon.

      • Thank you for the reassurance! I don’t have a huge amount of space to plant, but it’s still pretty reasonably sized. I love green beans and spinach particularly, and I probably have enough space for that plus some peppers and a few bug-repelling flowers like marigolds. It’s all full-sun too, which means it’s prime veggie garden space!

        • Look into “square foot” gardening if you have limited space. I’ve only started gardening this year, so I have just one 4×4 foot garden beside my driveway. I remain perpetually surprised to see things actually growing in it. (PS: Soak your seeds before planting. It makes an amazing difference in sprouting times.)

  2. I understand not wanting to travel to garden. Our little rental house has a small yard/garden, though, and I love it. When it’s right outside, it’s not hard to pop out and take care of it in small chunks of time. It does feel like another pet, except it feeds YOU, too.

  3. I was the same. I wanted a garden, but when living in flats I really didn’t want to drive anywhere to go and tend it. I left it and concentrated on my ever expanding collection of house plants. Then last year we bought our own house, which has good sized gardens to the front and the back. When we first moved in I was so excited about the gardens, but then I got the fear! I ended up doing absolutely nothing with them except for mowing the lawns for a whole year because I was terrified of making a pigs ear of it. I had this vision of a lovely wildlife friendly traditional english garden, but no idea how to go about it. Having lived there a year now I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to do something, so last Sunday I bit the bullet and started cutting bushes down to the ground so that I could start from scratch. And you know what? I really enjoyed it and by the end of the day I had not only got rid of the bushes, but also managed to plant out all my shrubs that had been in pots all last year. It’s got a long way to go yet, but my inner gardener has definitely raised her head again, and you know what? She can do it!

  4. We have one garden in our front yard that’s pretty easy for me to get into, but the one in our neighbour’s yard (that’s basically three houses away because his yard is so long? And our community garden plot that’s a four-minute walk away? I leave those to my partner for the daily maintenance, and tackle big several-hour weeding/planting projects when I feel like it. If I were on my own I’d have a small garden I’m sure, but because I have a very active partner I get to plan three big gardens and he does most of the physical labour.
    What we’re putting off getting are meat rabbits… That’s our next “living thing” goal, but we’ll probably need to wait until the kiddos are at least able to help out a bit. So… 4-7 years.

    • Oh, and I coordinate a community garden and we only take on gardeners in our neighbourhood! We want to actually build community, not just grow food, and also reduce the environmental impact of driving to the garden (which some of our gardeners do, but most live on the surrounding streets). And we also recognize that it’s much less of a hassle to not have to drive to garden and therefore gardeners are more likely to take good care of their plots.

  5. Currently living in a shitty rental and hoping to move soon. Tons of houseplants make me feel a little better about my lack of garden. My husband I decided to create a small container garden of the things we use/spend money on most often. So far we have planted tomatoes and lettuce from seed and already have some lovely sprouts coming up. Next on the list is a small indoor herb garden, so far all I have going is cilantro which is like crack in our house! Nothing beats the flavor of freshly cut cilantro, which is why we grow it every year even though it is relatively cheap to buy here in Texas.

    Believe me when I say ANYONE can do this (if they so desire), I am the world’s laziest gardener. Throw some seeds in the dirt and water often is the extent of my efforts.

  6. We’re house-hunting. There was one we saw that I quite liked, but the 400 sq. meters of land that came with it were detached from the house. I figured I wouldn’t want to take care of it. You couldn’t just pop outside to water the roses while leaving a pot on the stove, or leave for a minute a sleeping baby at home and go take care of the broccolis. One would have to actually wear clothes and carry the keys to go see if the tomatoes were ripe already. Parties would have been uncomfortable due to lack of water and toilets. Due to regional regulations, it would have been complicated to build even a garage or shelter. Uhm. No.

  7. I haven’t completely rejected the idea of a garden, but it’s definitely something I’ve put on hold for now.

    My husband and I were renting a house last year that had a perfect spot for a garden. I couldn’t wait to get started when we moved in. Then I realized that we were only planning on living there for a year. What’s the point of putting all that work into a garden to leave it after a year in hopes that the next tenant would continue it? Now we’re back in an apartment with little natural light. There are huge yard areas in our complex, but I cannot seem to organize a community garden in those plots. They’re mostly littered with garbage and dog poop that doesn’t get picked up.

    We’re moving back in with my family at the end of this lease. My mom is working on planting a garden right now and (if she’s still in to the idea when we move up there) I can’t wait to help out. But once we finally have a place of our own, with a nice big yard for the dog, it’s on. Garden dreams, I appreciate your patience. We’ll get there eventually.

    • What’s the point of putting all that work into a garden to leave it after a year…

      That’s also how I felt about the community garden. Like… we can’t take that with us, you know? So it felt like even more of a waste of time.

  8. Having a garden is not like having a human child, because human children let you know when they need stuff! Plants just whither and die while you forget about them. Children at least get louder and angrier!

    Seriously, I have managed to keep my child alive for two years, and she seems to be doing fine. I really can’t say the same for my basil plants.

    • I TOTALLY feel like my (community) garden is like a needy child sometimes! Especially in early spring when it’s full of baby plants that are so fragile and water hasn’t been turned on yet so I need to daily fill up a watering can from my bathtub and carry it to the site (which is thankfully only a block away). But I can’t neglect it. If I forget to water it or weed it or fail to fertilize it things will up and die. I’m already stressing trying to figure out a babysitter to take care of it while I’m out of the country for two weeks this summer.

      Thankfully it’s worth it later in the summer when I have more tomatoes than I can possibly eat. 🙂 (And reminds me that I’m perfectly happy child-free.)

  9. I’m excited to be digging my hands in the dirt these last few weeks… I think the difference is: for me it feels like a form of creativity (just like cooking does). At any moment when it would begin to feel like “another thing to take care of” I imagine my relationship to gardening would change rapidly!

  10. Aw, man, I get this. I keep thinking that I want plants or a garden, and I’ve got the yard to do it in, but ugh…just one more thing that I can neglect. I’ve got just enough time and energy to care for my toddler, myself, my marriage, my job and my four pets (well, my pets probably don’t get as much attention as they should), in that order. That’s it though. My house is not clean. My car is definitely not clean, though my husband thankfully will take it for oil changes after I put it off for too long. My sewing machine is sitting there unused. I wish I had more energy to spend time with friends, to work on my hobbies, to plant healthy food for eating, and I think I will someday when I’m getting more sleep, when the kid doesn’t require so much attention and sadly, when we have less pets, but today is not that day.

  11. “that guy I married”, ha.

    I have a garden and relandscaped part of my front yard. It eats up a lot of my weekends right now, especially the front yard (oh the weeding – pre-emergent herbicide is your friend in early spring) and I can’t imagine having to drive to deal with plants. Right now all the attention the garden gets in lumped in with our after work routine – come home, let dog out to pee, put dog back into house cause she loves the hose a little too much, then water the garden for five or ten minutes before going in to deal with dinner. And if we just watered yesterday or it rained, we don’t even do that much.

    One thing I do like about it is that when I’m out there for the morning I’m in my own space (physically and mentally). It’s quiet, I might listen to a podcast, but no one is bugging me (except possibly bugs). It’s nice and zen.

    • Ha. “That guy I married” is the pet name I came up with for Aaron, when “husband” seems to SERIOUS ADULT for me. I love that Homies and friends alike now refer to him as such. Last night a friend asked, “How’s that guy you married.”

  12. Just one more voice to say I totally get this. When I started reading I was expecting to leave a comment convincing you to just go ahead and give it a try anyway, you’ll see how much joy/relaxation/goodness it brings you to have that garden…but after *actually* reading your situation, I’m behind you. I started gardening in an apartment in containers (check out Bountiful Containers by McGee & Stuckey if you’re ever interested in going down that road) when I lived in a city overseas without community gardens. That was what held me over for a few years, while I dreamed of having a space of my own.

    When we moved back to the US, despite being in a city with NUMEROUS community gardens, we made it an absolute non-negotiable to find a home with ample gardening space (at least as ample as a city townhouse can provide). As it turns out, our back lot was a bit smaller than some of the others we’d looked at, but there are 3 community gardens that are within walking distance, at less than 1.5 miles away. Initially, the proximity of the community gardens was what convinced me that having the slightly smaller yard was OK – I could ‘supplement’ at one of the other gardens, right?

    But, honestly? You hit the nail right on the head – I want to be able to (and do!) poke around in the garden in the early morning in my PJs when I let the dogs out to pee. Though I do designate time to doing more hardcore ‘garden stuff’ on the weekends for the bigger prep/maintenance tasks, I like being able to pop out of the back door in the evening after work for literally 10 minutes to check on the weeds, or water if it’s been dry. And I cherish nothing more than the moments where I just happen to be passing by one of my plants/trees/grapevines and I get lost in inspecting every leaf – sometimes, really, just to admire how much they’re growing and silently pat myself on the back – but of course I pretend I’m inspecting them for something important.

    And, though I know this doesn’t apply for the child-free crowd, I look forward not only to being able to better maintain my garden once the little human seedling I have going makes his/her debut to the world (because, really, with an newborn/baby, a 1 mile walk to spend a half hour at a community garden a few times a week…might as well be a marathon, right?), but also to our child being able to take part in gardening daily from a very early age (and by ‘take part’ I mean ‘sit in a sling while momma pulls weeds,’ obviously).

    So, yeah, I totally get you & support the choice. I believe you’ll still have that ‘itch’ when you finally get a space of your own!

    • While I don’t get the the whole “little human seedling” thing (ha!!!), I totally get that whole “inspecting every leaf” thing. I do that with the scrawny succulents that cling to life on my balcony that never gets sun). It’s FASCINATING. I don’t even want to know what my neighbor, whose window overlooks my balcony, thinks about me when I’m face planting a bucket of succulents every morning. But one day, it won’t matter! Because I’ll have a fence around a yard and I can face plant my garden one day. 😉 #wishfulthinking

      • Oh, I get this, I really do. I felt just like you did for many moons too; too much hassle trying to battle the elements keeping things alive. I got over it by starting small, in containers. You mentioned having succulents on your balcony–if they’re staying alive out there, you just might be able to grow some salad greens in something like a kitty litter pan. It’s a huge buzz to go out and snip some greens for your salad, to go along with “that guy’s” tomatoes. Really cathartic too, and a great way to destress yourself after a nasty day.

        • OMG I am growing my nasturtiums in a cat litter pan – I’ve avoided admitting it because people tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to the words “cat litter pan” (IT WAS CLEAN, PEOPLE SHEESH), and all I could think at the time was “WOW, what an awesome container for my plants that’s WAY cheaper than what they want a Lowes or Home Depot for a similar planter.” I am PSYCHED that someone else is growing container plants in a cat litter pan! *internet high-five*

  13. I am a serious gardener. I will never not have a garden. I have never missed a year at my community garden plot. That said, traveling to a plot has greatly shaped my gardening plans. It is just a mile and I go by bike. But I know that I won’t do that for chard, which would just sit and go to seed. Being at even a slight distance means that cherry tomatoes annoy me. Popping one in my mouth as I’m in the backyard? That would be lovely. Having to make a trip, picking for long minutes and carrying them home without cracking? For that effort, I want slicers.

    Community gardens are great, but they are a different thing than backyard gardens. It it good that you know yourself well enough to know that it wouldn’t suit you.

    • I like your strategic gardening! I feel like if I did have a plot I had to travel to, I would grow slower-developing things as well. It also is better if the window for when you can harvest is larger, like with beets or peppers. I’ve never grown them, but maybe potatoes? What other slow crops do you grow in your community plot?

      I agree that things that need to be picked frequently are better close to home. And “fast crops” are great for impatient people like me, even if they need more frequent supervision. (lettuce, chard, kale, herbs) Cherry tomatoes ripen sooner in the season, which is important when you’ve only got 4-5 months to garden. Personally, I think herbs are the most high reward thing to grow. They add so much flavor, are easy, and save you a lot of money at the grocery store. I also tend to use herbs a bit at a time, instead of the large bunches for sale, so it is less wasteful for me that way. What’s your “high reward” crop?

      • I’m with you–herbs. They’re expensive to buy,and you can also grow a wider variety and just pick what you need rather than getting a whole bunch when you just need a few leaves. Heirloom tomatoes are another high reward crop for me. If I were settled for a long time, red raspberries and asparagus would be also worth it. There is nothing like fresh asparagus, and the berries are best when picked soft and ripe, which is only feasible if you’re picking them right before eating them. These are also easy to grow if you have the climate for it.

  14. I hadn’t thought of it as fast vs slow. That’s an interesting perspective. I think of it as stuff I want bad enough to go there for. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Those are worth a trip and don’t take much maintenance (once staked and mulched). Lettuce, onions, greens? I can get those at Farmers’ Market year-round and they are fresh enough for me.

    I’d re-calibrate all of that with a backyard garden, but I’m not there yet. Oh, green beans were a failure. I couldn’t pick ’em before they got woody. Loved ’em, but I’ll need to be closer to them to grow them again.

  15. I’m the same way, I’ve always liked the idea of having a garden, but not enough to actually garden. Luckily, it just so happens that my partner loves gardening! All the food and none of the work! I highly recommend it. (Although he plans to farm as a career, so I’ll probably get sucked into it eventually…)

  16. We moved into a new house about a year ago and the previous owners where amazing gardeners. She gifted us with with many plants and we even have a little sunroom/atrium I used to kill everything I tried to grow in my old house, but we didn’t have any rooms that got good light. Now all our house plants are growing like gangbusters. I’m sure the old owners are horrified at the condition of our yard but one step at at time right? For now I’m just impressed that I have plants in my house that are thriving. I have to say, being able to care for plants on your own terms does make it much more fun. I can’t imagine that I would be interesting in learning more or looking forward to taking on more if it wasn’t my own land.

  17. Our last living situation, I had plenty of room for veggie beds, plus a bunch of large pots of herbs and such. We took a couple large pots with the biggest herbs in them, but otherwise I had to start almost completely over after we moved. Our balcony now is completely lined with tiny herb pots. We had to sacrifice having a tony BBQ on our “veranda,” but, fresh herbs! And when I get the greenhouse shelving units I want, it won’t be anywhere near as “surround by nature” out there but we will have that tiny BBQ.

    I couldn’t possibly have a pea patch plot. I need my garden to be right in front of my bloody face or else I completely forget it exists. I kept forgetting about it when it was just in the back yard. I want it as a hobby, not an obligation. Driving to it just won’t happen. And Megan, I respect you quite an awful lot for realizing that about yourself and refraining. I feel guilty when my plants die because of my neglect. It’s not a happy good thing.

    I’ve had to give up on my dream of more garden-fresh tomatoes for the time being. One day, when we’re back in a house with a yard. In the meantime, herbs. All the herbs.

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