CHENNAI:Oh, this won’t grow at all, the goats will eat it up!,” said my neighbour as I planted a Parijatham (Indian Coral Jasmine) sapling outside our house. Never one to give up, I built a tree guard for the sapling with sticks and mesh. It shot up nicely. In two weeks, a cow thought it fit to scratch its ear on the mesh, dislodging it. A herd of goats came by and polished off every leaf.
Next time, I planted a sapling in the little patch of soil in our basement. “Oh, hardly any sunlight here, so this won’t grow at all,” said the same soothsayer. The plant came up defiantly, a bit leggy and tender. A sixer from the street cricket team ended its rise to stardom. “You won’t be able to have Parijatham in this house, try something simpler,” said the neighbour.
Failures are part of gardening. The healthiest of seeds don’t germinate sometimes. Some plants forget to bloom. Others bloom and bloom, but never produce a fruit. But I don’t mind. If you are a hobby gardener, the aim is to grow plants, enjoy the daily dose of surprises, and learn continuously. And learn to take the failures in your stride too.
Gardening is like school exams in a way. Sounds crazy? (No, I don’t grow marijuana, or datura, and I have a perfectly sane explanation for this comparison.) See, students prepare long and hard for exams and hope to get great marks, right? Gardening too is about hard work and getting a great harvest. But in fact, both are about preparing you for life, not always about the marks or the harvest, unless you are a farmer. Exams teach a student how to work hard, how to manage time, how to manage a balance in life and how to recognise one’s strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. It really is not about the marks. It’s the same with gardening. In spite of all your efforts, some plants just don’t give you results. Some plants, like some subjects, are easy-peasy. They don’t need you to sweat. The learning is in thinking about the results and trying to find ways to improve the results.
What can be done when you have failures in the garden? You seek help. Online help is always at hand. The wonderful people, on the Facebook group Organic Terrace Gardening, are always quick with good tips to counter failures. And it is a place where you see the stars of OTG reporting failures like this: My methi is not growing; Why are my chilli plants looking so unhealthy? I’ve been following every rule in the gardening book — still no success with these brinjals, help!
Gardening is also about unexpected rewards such as spotting a butterfly on your basil. Years ago, I planted something I thought would grow up to be a creeper with yellow flowers, Trisellateia australasiae. Instead it grew up to be a huge Umbrella Tree — nurturing fruit-bats, birds and an entire ecosystem of creatures.
And, the neighbour was wrong. I did grow the dreamy Parijatham tree — in a pot in the terrace. It bloomed profusely, filling the air with the sweet smell of success! I loved the plant…and so did an army of red ants…How to get rid of ants? Now that’s a different lesson. Not in the syllabus!
Happy gardening, and let’s keep learning!
Gardening is like school exams...
...in a way. Sounds crazy? See, students prepare long and hard for exams and hope to get great marks, right? Gardening too is about hard work and getting a great harvest.