Monday, July 7, 2008

Regarding the Garden

I am very much a novice gardener; however, I learn new things each year, and my crops have become progressively more plentiful and predictable. The first year David and I attempted a garden, we tilled up the ground in a part of the yard that did not get enough sun. Cold crops, like peas, radishes, and lettuce did okay, but I was hard pressed to get a full grown zucchini, and the corn and green beans completely failed. The next year we moved the garden. By “we” I mean David and my Dad. By “moved the garden” I mean, they cut out eight hundred square feet of sod from the new garden plot and used that sod to fill in the old garden plot. It was a labor of love, for it was I who did not want to have two large tilled up areas in the yard. The new garden was larger and in a much sunnier place. That year we had a bumper corn crop, a steady stream of green beans, and our first experience with the well-known zucchini surplus phenomenon. But the tomatoes were few, and the cucumbers—nonexistent.

I was advised by my sage neighbors that my problem with the tomatoes was that I did not prune the suckers. They explained that there are many branches on a tomato plant that are lush and leafy, but have neither the means nor intention of ever producing any fruit. These unproductive branches steal nutrients and energy from the productive branches of the plant and can reduce overall tomato production. They are called suckers because they suck up food and water without giving anything in return. That was why my very large and healthy-looking tomato plants yielded only a handful of edible tomatoes. The next year I vigilantly pruned my tomato plants, and while they tended to look more haggard and lank overall, their branches were absolutely heavy with tomatoes. Success!

But still plaguing me is the challenge of the cucumber. Even in the sunnier garden location, when I plant cucumbers they never grow. The seeds go in the ground at the right depth and spacing, but nothing ever spouts. I have even planted them a second time in the same season when it seemed the first attempt failed, and still, no sign of germination. Last year I thought I would beat the system and I bought cucumber plants from the Future Farmers of America. When I brought them home, both plants were strong and already sporting blossoms. I carefully transplanted them into my sunny, fertile garden, and watered them well. I had high hopes for those cucumbers. They were completely dead within a week. And no one can tell me why.

I am utterly perplexed by my inability to grow a cucumber. I have asked neighbors where I am going wrong, but they don’t seem to know. I have asked experts in garden shops to no avail. I have even sought out the teacher of the Future Farmers of America, and while he could not solve my problem, he assured me that his wife’s cucumbers were prone to the same fate as mine. At least I’m not alone. I have looked up answers on the Internet, but nothing I find seems to help. It appears that cucumbers are my gardening weakness.

I’ve heard that Amish quilters, famous for their brilliant craftsmanship, put an intentional flaw in every quilt as a reminder that only God is perfect. And it is not God who needs the reminding—it is us, the flawed. While I am fairly certain that I will never have success with cucumbers, maybe I should continue to plant them as an intentional flaw in the patchwork quilt of my garden. I can sometimes have visions of grandeur that belie the reality of my fallen condition. Next time I think too highly of myself, I can just take a walk through the garden and ponder the fact that I no matter how great my accomplishments, I cannot make a cucumber grow. And I will find peace in this simple reminder, for there is great assurance in knowing that God is God, and I am not. He never fails, His perfection is predictable, His excellence can be expected, He is flawless forever, and yet, He cares for me!

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.


  1. What an amazing post! Eloquently spoken my friend....sorry about the cucumbers:-(

  2. This pruning of the tomatoes is entirely new to me. I just went out and trimmed away. I hope it helps. So sad about the cucumbers though - that is Z's plant - he loves a cuc!