The Accidental Gardener

I marvel at the ripening tomatoes straining under the weight of a heavy bough in my backyard, testament that benign neglect is often the best choice.

The tomatoes, late bloomers this year, are surrounded by three types of sweet-smelling mint that crowd out the veggies, so from time to time a yank a handful of mint, which it takes in stride, slowly filling in the space when my back is turned.

I’ve planted different lettuces in multiple stages to fill my addiction to salads. Just when the arugula decides to flower the romaine nods in my direction. Something called deer tongue has a delicate leaf you can’t find in stores, perhaps because it wilts the moment it’s plucked. I can have salad every day.

Amazing how the yellow squash, green zucchini and slicing cucumbers behave like ideal employees: self-starters who need little direction. They take off all on their own, flowering and blooming with just a modicum of encouragement.

I thoughtlessly scattered nasturtium, peas and mustard greens, which have taken root with little urging. That I could coax anything to grow from a seed is newsworthy and that I can actually make a meal is reason to stop the presses.

Months ago I quartered some potatoes and stuck them into the earth and today two of them offered themselves to me for breakfast, joined by eggs, a gift from neighbor’s chickens.

Gardening has proven to be a good Zen experience for me since my tendency is to lasso a project and wrestle it to the ground until it yields to my will. But the garden charted its own course, and by letting go, our relationship blossomed.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
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