The Perils of a Novice Gardener

I recently started a few gardening projects. I had been toying with the idea of getting into gardening for about a year and got a bunch of videos to help get me started. Before then, I had never really grown anything beyond herbs in a pot. Even then, I’d not had much success with some (I have failed at growing mint before. Yes, mint. The vigorous little herb that needs little encouragement. The plant that others agonize over getting rid of once it takes over their garden).

Anyway, I asked my parents for a little patch that I could use and they helped me get started. Among other things, I decided to grow cucumbers and zucchini (courgettes). I carefully made the basins that my mother suggested and followed the instructions on the seed packets. I planted two seeds in each basin and generously but carefully watered them.

A day or two after I had planted the seeds, we experienced a moisture belt and received substantial rain for several days so I didn’t have to do any watering. Although the rain wasn’t too heavy, I worried about whether my seeds would stay in the ground or would be washed away. When it stopped raining, I went to check on my seeds to see if anything had germinated. Nothing. I was supposed to wait 7-14 days, so I kept checking every other day to see if anything had come up. Part of the problem was that I did not know whether what I was looking at was a weed or a little cucumber or zucchini coming up. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like when they germinated.

After a few days, I went to check on my patch and noticed towering plants that definitely didn’t look like weeds. It’s as if they had grown overnight. One of them was in the assigned basin, three more were right outside their basins. I concluded that the rain probably shifted the seeds a little bit. Regardless, I kept watering the plants. None of the other seeds had germinated, so I concluded that I had one cucumber plant and three zucchini plants. I was disappointed that the others didn’t come up but happy to at least have some progress and told my parents about this development.

Earlier this week, I was tending to my patch and my mother walked by and asked where the cucumber plant was and I pointed it out to her. She kept asking “which one?” and I kept pointing at it out confused as to why she couldn’t see it right under her nose. Lo and behold, it was not a cucumber. It was…a bean stalk.

I nervously asked what my zucchini plants were and she told me, “My daughter, these are all beans. Whenever I would pass by, I would try and find this cucumber and zucchini you were telling me about but not see anything. I thought you had also planted beans or something.”

Apparently, beans were the last thing that were planted in that patch. So, by some miracle, some remaining seeds had withstood all the tilling of the ground and come up vigorously. So, for the past two months, I thought I was nurturing my little plants of choice and instead, I had beans.

Now, I have nothing against beans. I enjoy beans very much. They’re just not what I had planned. Now what was I supposed to do with these 4 little bean stalks?

The day before finding out they were beans, I had transplanted the stray ones back into their basins. I had accidentally snapped one of the stems in the process and was feeling quite bad for it and was prepared to nurse it back to health. Now that it was just a bean? My sympathy for it went out the window. After finding out the true identity of these plants, I then transplanted them out of the basins and put them in a row between the beds. At first, I decided to still water them, but not catch feelings if they don’t make it. Now, I’m kind of curious about them and I am willing to see them through to maturity.

There are so many lessons one can learn as a gardener. I am just a novice, but boy, have I already learnt many lessons. The beans in particular have served as a humorous lesson about life, really.

Lesson #1: Though the odds are against you, if you are determined, you can make it. Those bean seeds were determined to come up despite not being planned or catered for and they sure did. They seized the opportunity they saw before them.

Lesson #2: Know exactly what your goal is and what steps along the way indicate to you that you are on the right path. If I had known what the plants look like as they germinate and grow, I’d have known that I was not dealing with what I had planted. The end result (beans vs. cucumbers or zucchini) would have let me know that I had not reached my goal, but there are other steps that should have guided me. What do the leaves look like? What size will the plant be after so many days of growth?

Lesson #3: Don’t ignore things that might indicate that you are not on the right path. I ignored the fact that most of the seeds were growing outside the basins because of the one seed growing inside the basin. I desperately wanted to be successful, but the truth was I was not. No amount of wishing can take away the truth of what is before you.

Lesson #4: Sometimes things go unexpectedly and you just need to roll with it. I did not plan to have beans in my garden and yet here I am, a reluctant bean gardener. My first thought when I found out that they were not what I thought they were was to pluck them out and let them die out in the sun. I thought better of this and decided to just embrace them and reassign them to a different place and continue to water them as if I did want them. Why punish them for the sheer determination they showed in springing up. They are not harming my garden in any way. They are just happily there for the ride.

I’ve now replanted more seeds and downloaded pictures of what cucumber and zucchini plants look like when they germinate and during different stages. Hopefully I’ll see progress soon. And by progress, I mean actual cucumber and zucchini plants. If not, I will humbly accept the beans as my accomplishment.

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