Green fingers

As a child I was forced by my father to weed his fruit and vegetable garden. That was uncomfortable, boring and for me quite senseless. I would have preferred to play with colleagues, instead of making a contribution to the economic success of my father, the hobby gardener. His successes were also mixed and it seemed to me that that the cost far outweighed the benefit. Once condemned to gardening, there was no escape.

Unfortunately my father never understood how to motivate me with a good pedagogic approach and to give me independent tasks, like planting and seeding or harvesting and as a result throughout my childhood gardening was a torture. But at the same time I was fascinated by the successes of my grandfather. My grandfather had a huge orchard full of wonderful trees with fantastic sweet fruit. My grandfather’s garden had run wild and apart from a corner shut off was accessible to his chickens. In this chickens’ paradise one never had to do any weeding. Either there wasn’t any or it didn’t disturb. I had also never seen that in the vegetable patch my grandfather had fought the weeds. He cast a few seeds, added a few chicken droppings and that was it. The harvest was large and tasty. Grandfather didn’t care and very often he gave most of it away, because he himself lived off bread, eggs, butter and fruit.

Sometime when I had reached adulthood I felt a need to plant something myself, to see it grow and to harvest it. In my tiny garden the size of a handkerchief every inch was used. I tried everything. Peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, beans, lettuce, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, kohlrabi and so on. My successes were also very mixed. Once all my dozen cauliflower plants flourished and were huge. One can eat one or two cauliflowers. But not twelve. Just as I had seen with my grandfather, they were given away in the whole neighbourhood. One year I had to re-sow the runner beans four times. Twice the wet weather destroyed them and twice a gourmet deer from the adjacent wood.

The successes make you feel great. I admired my beans with pride, I have eaten scarcely anything tastier than my own harvest of brussels sprouts, which within an hour one had transformed from the garden into a fragrant meal.

The setbacks are frustrating and one needs perseverance. How do you combat the slugs? (At times I collected them every morning). How do you combat diseases? How do you combat the weather? How do you keep the various pests away? Unfortunately I haven‘t inherited my grandfather’s green fingers and so I learned everything by trial and error.

I admit that today I am as far as my grandfather many years ago. I have an easy to manage fruit garden with blackberries, raspberries, redcurrants, gooseberries and every year I plant a few tomatoes. The rest of the garden is perennial, easy to manage, fragrant flowers. That brings the desired success and avoids the frustration of failure. As in everything else, knowledge is crucial and, despite many years’ gardening, I’m still a beginner. Maybe in the next life.

But my garden has taught me a lot. Humility, that today we ourselves do not have to plant what comes on the plate. Probably I would have starved to death in the first winter. Pleasure and pride in one’s successes and achievements. Modesty in one’s expectations.

As an exercise in motivation I can recommend it to everybody.









Images: M. Grossmann /

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