How Much Do You Need to Know Before You Can Start Growing Organic Food?
GUEST POST BY NICOLA CHATHAM
*Note: This post is surprisingly not just about growing food.
“Begin with the end in mind” is something I’ve heard said a lot in business. “Know what it is you want, and then reverse engineer your way back from there.”
A part of me loves this idea. Adores the simplicity and logic of figuring out what it is you want to create, then working backwards to achieve that goal.
But another part of me has experienced that notion as a half-truth. The artist, writer and gardener in me knows it doesn’t lead to true expression, innovation and learning if you are always thinking you have to know the exact end result before beginning.
My worst paintings are the ones where I have a pre-conceived picture in my mind’s eye of how I want it to look. There’s no life in them. While they may appear ok to a viewer, they are boring to me. Not fun to make. No sense of discovery.
It’s the same with gardening. How on earth are you supposed to perfectly plan your first garden? When you don’t even know if cucumbers grow on vines or bushes. Or how long your wet season will be. Or what grows easily in your region.
You don’t yet know what will practically grow itself, because the best time-saving and tastiest veggies aren’t typically available in the grocery store.
When a brush mark doesn’t go as planned, it can be agony if you’re aiming for a photo-realist painting. When you know the exact content of a blog post before you begin, where’s the joy in writing? When you’re attached to growing olives (as I am) in a region that’s more suited to pawpaw, the game of gardening becomes a life lesson in letting go of attachment and a spiritual practice of acceptance and adventure.
I suggest you come with a vague idea of what you want in a garden, in a life, in a painting or a chapter, but don’t fill in the gaps until you begin the process of creating. Thinking you can completely plan your way to an accomplished artwork, titillating article or abundant organic garden has a tendency to lure us into procrastination, with an undercurrent of desperate ‘I can’t do this, it’s too hard’ thinking every time.
We like to think we are in control in life. We are used to getting refunds when things we buy don’t work. We are used to being able to look up an instruction manual, call a help desk, Google the answer.
Creating, gardening, and life, aren’t like that. We are collaborators with the unknown. The unexpected. The living, changing seasons, creatures, and ebb and flow of nature. We are not in control. We can’t have everything we want.
But we can have a whole lot more than we have right now! If we put our seeds in the ground, set up a watering system, have fun, play and see what happens. Some paintings, or should I say plantings, will be magnificent. Some will be duds. But you can’t get to the masterpieces without the junk heap. You can’t find the perennials that will feed your for years to come if you don’t stick them in the ground. You can’t have everything grow all at once, but you can have more growing than what you have now.
You don’t need to know how many lettuces you will eat in a season, or how to overcome every pest, or the exact nutrient each plant needs. Don’t worry about getting it all picture perfect on paper or planned out exactly in your mind’s eye. Go outside and start. The more you start, the more success you will create. No matter what your creative dreams are.
If you have any comments or questions, feel free to pop them in the comments section below!
Author bio: Nicola Chatham is an organic gardening coach and permaculture designer. She helps people who are busy or recovering from illness set up low-maintenance, organic gardens that produce healthy and delicious food with minimum time and effort. Sign up for her free weekly newsletter ‘Sprout!’ here.
Positive affirmation for the day: I feel safe knowing that my life is part of the Universe’s magnificent plan.
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