When I started this post, I considered it as a personal lesson, then I considered how a lot of the reflections spoke to me as a dad and how they might be applicable to pastors in the same manner. So, Pastor friends, Part Two is for you.
Is what I mentioned in Part One a fair example of the garden the Landlord has given you to garden? Can we dig below the surface and get deep for a few moments?
Are you only interested in shopping for transplants so everything looks nice and manicured, or so your investment in the garden is as “risk free” as possible? If so, you might want to consider a few things. When you don’t raise seedlings, you don’t know what’s been sprayed on them. Yeah, they may look nice and lush until you try to transplant them in your garden where you haven’t properly taken care of your own soil, first. Not only can they wither up and die, but they could infect your own soil and crops with the same pesticides previously sprayed on them.
Did you know there are good and bad bugs to have in the garden, ones richly beneficial to others by their presence alone? Those hardworking ants can be pests to new seeds (carry them away even), but to mature plants they help aerate the soil. Gardens today are all about location. Is your garden experiencing a healthy balance of sun and rain? Did you know you can scorch your plants or flood them out with too much of either? There’s a lot to consider to gardening.
Some pests eat other pests, and depending on what you’re growing, their presence can give you an idea of how well your crops are doing before you even see them flower or reproduce. What about plant placement? (Now, I know a lot of gardeners don’t like to micromanage things like placement, but the Landlord has entrusted you to, well, garden.) Did you know certain plants grow really well beside others? One plant releases certain chemicals into the soil the other needs, and on the surface one row of a particular plant releases an odor that keeps bugs away from the leaves they desire to eat on the other plants. On the flip side, certain plants attract bugs that will completely devour it if left unchecked. Consider plant placement, friends. It’s like natural accountability.
Did you know different fertilizers do different things? Chicken, Cows, Horses –each kind helps the roots of the plants in different stages and serves as natural barriers to enrich the soil in varying ways. Is what you’re using to enrich your soil right now actually beneficial at this stage in its growth, or are you stunting its growth by giving it good nutrients out of season? Don’t get me wrong, good nutrients are great, but good nutrients given out of season are not only wasteful, they can be damaging, stunt the growth of the plant, kill the plant, or simply help the weeds grow faster.
Then, for the duh factors: Are they growing in the right phases of planting? This helps you determine if they’re going to produce. Has the seed died so it can begin to grow? Is there a shoot? If you pull it away from the seedlings around it and replant it, will it continue to grow? If so, it’s strong. If not, was it growing to start with, or simply sapping nutrients from the others? Did you know certain plants, like tomatoes, have baby shoots at the base of them, and if you pluck them at the right time of their maturation it helps encourage them to push nutrients to grow quicker and more productive? Simply put, pluck the baby stuff so they can grow in due season.
Check the leaves. Make sure it’s what you planted. Some packets come with weeds. Don’t grow weeds and if you find weeds do the hard, dirty work. Pull weeds! Your plants will thank you later when they’re producing instead of being sapped of nutrients. You have to weed for your crops! Stop hoping the weeding will get done on its own. Plants don’t weed themselves, they need you to be the gardener.
Do your plants flower? Are they going to produce? From a distance, a garden can look glorious, but at the end of the day is it producing? Who, gardeners included, wants to go through all this to see nothing? No harvest. Not even seeds to replant for next season? Don’t just buy a chemical at some store and mass pump it all over your garden because it says it keeps the cockroaches away. Do you even have a cockroach problem? You might find out later that those pesticides are unsafe or cause cancer (cough…Rob Bell…sorry, had to). Do your research, first. Use organic methods, which –unfortunately aren’t always the quick, easy, affordable ones. And since it’s not your garden –you’re just tending it for the Landlord– you might want to consider if He would approve of such careless, easy methods being sprayed on His crops.
If you call yourself a gardener, and you do, you will mess up and make mistakes in your choices, which yield a poor crop from year to year, but learn from what you do more than walking by other gardens and critiquing their manicured rows. I’ve read more than a few books and watched quite a few Youtube videos on organic gardening, but doing it is another thing altogether. Will other people walk by your garden and mock it? Sure. Will they write their books and start their podcasts about gardens and critique your garden for you, taking the worst pictures possible from the grass line to make your weeds look huge? Call your garden wretched? Sure.
Lastly, don’t read every gardening book, watch every Youtube video, study everyone’s gardening techniques and then start your own Reformed Rows Gardening Group. Garden, first. Get your hands dirty, pull weeds, get pricked, learn what gloves to wear, what tools to use when, and how to, well, actually garden. Don’t just throw up a greenhouse and talk about how great the soil is in this new garden you found, and say, “Well, if it grows it grows…I’m just going to check up on it sometime in August. We’ll see at harvest time…” If you want to garden by natural selection, cool, just stop trying to debate about it with the gardeners who are getting dirty every day. As you know, gardening is hard work. Stick to it, friends. It’s worth the fight.
In the end, you’ll give thanks for the five tomato plants that produced even though you’re certain you emptied two packets of tomato seeds. Sure, you wanted those wonky corn stalks on the back row to form a nice wall between this section and that, but hey, that’s just not where they ended up. Be thankful, you’ve got corn! Your garden area is huge, but you only have three rows producing? Praise God you have three rows producing! Maybe your soil is really good for those specific three rows. Focus on that crop next season. Drop your books from your favorite authors on onions and garlic because your soil is great for potatoes. Mike, I hate potatoes, they smell… Deal with it! The Landlord gave you great soil for potatoes. Stop trying to grow other gardener’s gardens! The Landlord has made you the gardener to manage this garden. Grow it!