Trust me, I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.
Last year, our homestead garden was entirely my responsibility. While I relied on Ian to run the over-sized tiller to turn up the thick clay we were pretending was good garden soil, the planning, planting and maintenance of the space was completely up to me.
And it was a disaster.
I started out well enough. Seeds were started in our greenhouse in the early spring and throughout April and May I managed to keep the weeds at bay and coax out some impressive-looking boc choy and broccoli.
Falsely inflated with undeserved confidence, I’d breezed over Ian’s requests to plant my seedlings in careful, straight rows (how boring is that?!) and instead placed my plants where ever I saw fit. I also dismissed the idea of keeping a garden log or even recording what was in each section, telling Ian that “I could easily remember it all”.
Early in the season I crowded my transplants into corners with the expectation of needing massive free spaces for unspecified future plants later in the season, but by the middle of summer I became so overwhelmed with the big gaps that I direct sowed all the seeds that remained into them, then promptly forgot their placement in the weeks before they sprouted.
By mid June, I was unexpectedly consumed with the process of beginning my own freelance writing business, and trivial tasks like weeding or watering the garden quickly lost their priority for me.
Receiving only passive antagonism from me, the weeds seized their opportunity and swallowed my garden whole. Utterly overwhelmed by the suffocating mass of vegetation, I admitted defeat in mid July and barely stepped in the garden until late August. Our first garden was a dismal failure.
It was embarrassing to admit I was so bad at maintaining my own garden, especially since I attached much of my college identity to a passion for growing plants. In fact, I paid for college in part by growing plants for other people each summer. Yet, one season of personal ownership is all it took to learn an inconvenient truth about myself; I love the IDEA of growing my own plants, but I’m fairly abysmal at it. Prone to constantly changing passions and flights of fancy, I just don’t have the resolve to see a gardening project through from March to November… I simply lose interest around mid-June.
This year, things are already different.
It’s all due to one fairly obvious reason- Ian’s taken over.
Last year’s garden almost turned Ian bananas. Its inherent disorder certainly got under my skin, but it truly drove Ian to unprecedented levels of discomfort. As a man who relaxes before a road trip by deep cleaning our refrigerator, Ian has a strong drive to live in an orderly world. Naturally, my garden made his skin crawl. In fact, I had to talk him down every week from weed whacking the sorry mess into oblivion (in retrospect, I should have let him do it).
Refusing to live another summer in such a state, Ian took matters into his own hands. His takeover process began last fall. First he built sturdy raised beds so that he could follow the Square Foot Method, then he sneakily planted all our potatoes when I was occupied with a writing deadline. By keeping me as uninvolved with the planting process as possible, he finally achieved the straight rows and perfectly- spaced precision he had pined for all last year.
At this point, the only part of the garden I can honestly say I’m responsible for is a few square feet of spinach.
But guess what.
Our garden looks so much better.
Unlike last year, it’s actually possible to see each plant when it first sprouts. It’s also easier (and more manageable) to water when everything is so neatly defined by little boxes. Best of all, wading in to do a quick twenty minutes of weeding actually feels possible now that the space is designated into such manageable chunks.
So Ian wins. A penchant for order overcame my natural preference for a little chaos.
My creativity might be an asset in other ways, but it’s a liability when it comes to general maintainence. I need outside guidance, and imposed structure, otherwise my attempts becomes more of a hindrance than helpful. (As a side note, I also seem to find ways to wreck just about every baking recipe I attempt). I may be the imaginative one in our relationship, but without a little structure to keep me focused, I lose interest in any project that doesn’t show progress within three days.
But even so, I’m pretty proud of OUR garden this year. Ian might be the power behind making it a reality, but I don’t know how far he’d get without my passion and vision leading the way. I’m the one who gets excited in the early spring, endlessly researches every seed company on the planet, and gets our plants growing in the greenhouse. I flounder at the point where everything needs to be pulled together, but I provide him with the resources he needs to create a working, functional system. The result? A garden that we both are proud of.
I’d say we make a pretty good team.
Will this system fall apart and turn into a state of disorder that rival’s last years? It’s possible, but I don’t think so. I prefer to believe we’ve turned a corner in our homesteading journey with this garden by finding a way to work together that complements our very different skill sets. When we’re eating our homegrown food this coming winter, I know we’ll both be feeling proud with what we accomplished.