This is a eulogy for all the ideas and initiatives you should have said no to, need to let go of, need to creatively renew or destroy.
I tried something different this year in the garden. When all the vegetable varieties started growing as seedlings I began to thin. I never had the heart to thin. To remove plant starts that were just trying to do what they were supposed to do. But I thinned with apologies, love, and appreciation for each one. The little ones that remained, grew with room to stretch their leaves, vines, fruit, and bodies. If they began to hit upon each other making one become stunted and struggled, I would pull the latter and enjoy a few baby greens.
Thinning is full of death and renewal. It provides space to breath, space for water to collect, space for the sun and shade, and space for starts to go to someone else. I thin so that I can focus on a few to build strong and nutritious plants that will feed me over a longer time.
I review the garden on a regular basis to see what is worthy of my attention and what needs to be harvested or plowed. I don’t always get it right and they all begin to clump together, none getting enough of what they need. Each start is a decision. Not every offer is a chance. I delay action for a day or two debating if I really need to thin the bed. In my body I feel the answer and know that I will benefit, and the garden will benefit if I choose no.
I can’t say no. Loose leaf lettuce, romaine, chives, chamomile, parsley, cilantro, cucumber, kale, borage, beets, arugula, spinach, carrots, collards, sorrel. So many choices and eyes full of hunger. Look at all the shiny objects. Saying yes to all the things. Here in the garden, the seeds get planted at different times over a few months period, yet this still doesn’t prevent the over-growth. Too much is planted, and the results are varied. I must eat salad for every meal and still some goes to waste with them being shoved together so close they slime. I’ve made 20 pounds of varying pesto: sorrel and spinach, cilantro, cilantro and parsley. My over-winter carrots were too close and became stunted, small and tough. Many seeds never amount to anything, mourned in the soil where they became food for something else. Chives and parsley got shaded out and couldn’t grow because the chamomile spread its flowers so far. The cucumbers had no where to vine freely so toppled across the kale. Some couldn’t get enough resources like water and food and sun, so they drown, dried, wrinkled, and soured.
At a certain point, as some plants are aging, it’s time for renewal and creative destruction. I usually add more seeds where there’s still space, but sometimes I have to pull out and plow under the current plants. My eyes grow slant and focused while scanning the bed. I’m looking for plants that aren’t producing that much, others that have bolted but I’ve left for the flower, others that are browning that I’ve tried to salvage but now decide to let go of, and still others that have never fully matured but I left because 1) I had the space and 2) I was hoping they would fully mature but they didn’t.
So I plow. I don’t like to plow. I either feel inept, my lack of being a good gardener showing through or I feel sad to let some plants go as if I’m not giving them a chance to survive. Like I’m giving up on them.
Plowing and thinning have taken me years to actually do at the times they are needed instead of letting the plants suffer stuck somewhere between not investing enough resources and not letting go.
The garden is in full swing of record abundance. I’ve said yes to some and no to others. I was able to nurture all the plants that were kept. Big leaves, big carrots, big beets, big cucumbers, and record bags of lettuce like never before. Everything has room to grow and spread.
But my eyes glimmer with potential and possibilities. I’m viewing the seed catalog for the next great thing. What’s in the garden won’t be there for long and I will need to begin new seeds alongside the mature greens. A never-ending cycle where gestation, sowing, harvesting, and plowing are rotating through and within each other.
These are not linear though human brains tend to flatten and elongate turning everything into a timeline. Gestation, sowing, harvesting, and plowing are circular moving back and forth and around in the shape of infinity. Plowing insinuates renewal and sowing. Sowing begets harvesting which implies gestation.
The hard part is seeing where each plant is truly at and which one’s to let go of. Actually, the hardest part is letting go of something or saying no altogether. There’s power in no but we tend to have a hard time saying no to anyone but our own selves. Every time we say yes when it should have been a no, we are inherently saying no to ourselves instead of the thing we want to say no to.