These past few weekends I’ve been getting my garden ready for planting. Whenever I begin my garden each year I always remember gardening is such a terrific metaphor for life and success in any type of endeavor.
Those of you who have ever planted a garden know there is much more to it than just sticking a seed in the ground. Yes, that seed may sprout and may even bear fruit, but the chances for success are slim. Just as with anything else in life, preparation is the key to success. First, you must find the right spot to place your garden. Too much shade will prohibit most vegetables from ever producing. Poor drainage will cause the roots to rot and die. Next, especially in South Texas, it’s a good idea to have the soil analyzed to see what it nutrients might be lacking. Grass and weeds should be removed before you ever get started. The soil must be tilled deep in order to allow for proper root growth and any rocks must be removed. The compact clay-filled soil of South Texas must be loosened and enriched with compost. This is all part of the preparation process. Just like with anything else in life, If you fail to prepare, you must prepare to fail.
In life, we must prepare though being taught a good set of values with emphasis on character, integrity, respect and courage. We must develop a strong work ethic, receive a good education, select a good field of employment where we can thrive and grow, have a well developed support system in place. This is all part of the life preparation process. If any part of this process is missing, our chances of success are greatly diminished.
At this point in the garden process, many first time gardeners make the mistake of thinking the hard work is done. This reminds me of so many college graduates who never crack open another book in their entire life. The reality is, after you are properly prepared, the work is just getting started if you want to truly succeed. One of the most critical aspects, and one often overlooked, is planting vegetables that are good neighbors. By that I mean, if you’re going to plant carrots, you want to mix the seeds with radishes. The radishes will mature in 3 – 4 weeks and when you pull them up, you actually loosen the soil to give the carrots more room to mature. Seasoned gardeners will tell you to plant marigolds close to tomatoes and squash because the flowers attract pollinators and repel aphids. Planting onions next to your beans will stunt the growth of the bean plants and reduce production.
So you found the right location, prepared the soil well, selected the right neighbors; surely success is in your grasp. Not so fast. We haven’t even started on selecting the proper fertilizer, and giving the right amount of watering at the right time. Sprinkle those tomatoes on a hot afternoon and watch those beautiful tomatoes blister in the sun.
We haven’t even gotten to the part that destroys so many gardens (and lives). Weeds and insects will take over your garden almost overnight if you’re not careful. I equate this to negative influences in the workplace or falling in with the wrong people in our personal lives. Choose your friends and associations wisely. Are they really your friends or are they feeding off of you. A negative influence will ruin all of your hard work in no time. As we mature, we can become more resistant and have the ability to endure these negative influences better than when we are young, but they still do enormous amounts of damage and should be eradicated as soon as possible.
Now we’re finally able to begin reaping the benefits of our work. Now is when the prepared gardener knows it’s time to invest for the future. Your garden will likely produce more than you can consume, so we must invest for the winter months. By canning or freezing our produce, we will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor year round, just as by investing for the future, we are able to live tomorrow by what we do today.