How Gardening Teaches Patience

The other day I was weeding my asparagus patch. Asparagus takes three years to get going enough for you to start eating it. The first year you plant asparagus, it takes its good old time getting going, and you have to fight the weeds and mulch like crazy. The second year, the asparagus gets a little bigger, but you still can’t eat it, and you have to fight the weeds and mulch like crazy. Apparently, after the third year, you can start to eat it. But I’m not quite sure because mine is only two years old.

No matter how old my asparagus patch is I think I will have to fight the weeds and mulch like crazy. BUT, I’ll have my own in-season, local, organic asparagus. For two to three weeks in early spring we will eat asparagus day and night, broiled and in omelets and in salads, and get slightly sick of it and the smell of our asparagus pee, and then we will have to wait. Again. For another year.

The thing about gardening is that you realize you can’t rush things. A seed takes a certain amount of time to sprout, no matter what you do. A plant or tree takes a certain amount of time to grow, flower, or bear fruit, no matter what you do. No amount of chemicals or technology can make it go faster. And that’s totally OK! Can you imagine? That there is still something in our world today we can’t force to go faster? Crazy! Crazy good.

Even weeding is a good teacher of patience. It’s always intimidating to look at a giant patch of weeds and realize that it’s up to you to take them out. Sure, go ahead and spray some Roundup—poison the planet and your children (born or unborn). But you are missing the best part of weeding! Here is what I do: I take a blanket and a basket, and I get comfortable sitting on the ground. I time it so that it’s either early or late in the day, and preferably in the shade, and I start at one end and keep going (moving the blanket along with me) until I am done.

What’s so great about that? Well, for one thing, you start to see your garden up close. It’s amazing all the living things you come across. You notice plants that weren’t there before, and you can decide to let some stay just for fun. But most important, you have time to think. Time to let your mind wander while your hands are busy. Suddenly, you have ideas, insights, happy thoughts, resolution to problems. So when the weeding is done, not only do you have a great sense of accomplishment and your garden looks tons better, but your mind has been weeded too. That just can’t be rushed.

And don’t forget to mulch! Because as much as weeding is a good thing that teaches patience, we gardeners know we don’t want to have to do it too often.


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15 Responses to How Gardening Teaches Patience

  1. Liza (Good to Grow, in Albuquerque) June 28, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    It’s true, you can learn a lot from a garden. Nice post!

  2. Renee June 28, 2010 at 9:58 am #

    Thanks for this lovely reminder.
    Yesterday, I was planting a few annuals around my maidengrass, digging small holes for about 12 tiny flowers when a spider emerged, carrying her perfectly round, white egg sac, looking for a new home in the bed. Which she found just a few inches form her old one.
    So then I found myself in a lovely memory of Charlotte’s web and everything my boys and I shared over the years with that story.
    Gardening can sometimes feel like a spa treatment, right?
    Enjoyed your post, Maria.

  3. Maya June 28, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Weeding is so relaxing!

  4. Julie June 28, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Agree 100%. Weeding the garden is a wonderful escape for mind and body, and so much cheaper than therapy. 😉

  5. Felicity June 28, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Yes, even after the third, the fourth, the tenth year, you still have to weed the asparagus and mulch like crazy. If you miss just one spring weeding, you’ll be weeding twice as much the next year. But that’s the great part about gardening – here’s always next year to do it better, to get it right, to find out another way it can go wrong!

  6. Dawn June 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    I am on year one of potted vegetables on my deck and was just discussing with my husband that I am entirely too impatient to plant things and wait for them to grow!! Thanks for the reminder that I need to slow down and enjoy what I’ve helped to create.

  7. victoria June 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Some of my most restful memories are of the times spent weeding and tending the garden, especially early in the morning on a hot day like today. I love to walk the garden each day and see what has changed. What a joy it is to start out in the spring with a patch of dirt and end up with bounty for the table and vases filled with flowers!

  8. Mars June 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

    My school teacher friend and I cultivated a vegie garden on school grounds in Summerland CA. Some of the greatest quotes ever heard from 2nd to 5th graders can emerge as you’re all down on your knees weeding. I’ll remember forever the excitement of discovering tiny pearl snails eggs with twelve 4th Graders…..of course we hatched them in a box in the classroom. Soon after that they met their fate when we fed them to the chickens we also hatched in the classroom. A win win situation to be sure.

  9. liz June 29, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    What a great post! I see many similarities between the way you see gardening and how I look at sport. The more time you commit, the deeper your understanding and insights . . . and greater your reward.

    Only time and experience will lead to figuring it out.

    Besides, we’re so conditioned with immediate gratification it’s nice to do something that forces you to wait. The lessons probably hold true with any passion or pursuit . . . but maybe more so in those that connect us to our bodies and the earth. There’s much value in the pause.

  10. Amanda June 29, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    I was so annoyed that my computer wasn’t working the other day, I went straight out to the garden and weeded our 10×10 corn patch. I felt so much better! And so did my corn, I’m sure.

  11. Donna in Delaware July 2, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    Since coming back from Europe 2 weeks ago, after being away for a month, the weeds in the flower beds were thigh high. Yesterday, I was thinking as I was weeding, that isn’t it funny what goes through one’s head when in the garden alone weeding? It is so therapeutic, weeding. I love doing it, although a little less is welcomed. There is nothing like it. The peace and tranquility that you have when alone with your thoughts is priceless. You escape every single time from everything going on around you and feel refreshed afterwards, a good shower and a good meal with good drink, put your feet up and relax, until the next day, that is. Start over again and again. Ah, nature.

  12. Kate July 9, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    ok- so I am not going to lie…I don’t like weeding.

    This might be due to the fact that I just bought my first home and clearly the previous owner hadn’t weeded for roughly 7 years. My first weeding experience was traumatic. But now that its all under control, I am going to go in with an open relaxed mind and try my best to enjoy it- I am not making any promises 🙂 Honestly though, because I pulled all of those weeds, I have so much pride in my yard and the work I have put into it. So maybe you are right- pulling those little suckers can be quite…rejuvenating!

  13. DJ in PA June 30, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Weeding teaches me a great deal of patience by challenging my expectations. I used to find the very act of weeding therapeutic but now weeding (for more than short sessions) just contributes to a chronic back pain issue. Where I used to jump in enthusiastically, clucking at weeds, merrily pruning and wanting to tame everything into submission working towards some perfection–or at least some Ideal, I now know that ultimately that the Ideal is impossible. You can achieve it for a fleeting moment but Mother Nature always steps in to reassert her will–whether in the garden or in my back. Also, reading more concepts of gardening philosophy–such as ideas going back to Olmsted of shaping or guiding nature not reinventing it or taming it has helped me change my perspective, not only my goals/expectations but careful strategizing the realistic means to get there. I enjoy half full rather than half empty!

  14. Pablo May 4, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

    I am locating my family’s life from New York City to the Big Island of Hawaii. I have become quite the gardener and have learned the value of patience, especially through gardening and being much closer to nature. Fabulous post!

  15. Jane June 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    I enjoyed reading your article and couldn’t agree more about the joys of weeding. I have a large vegetable garden and people often ask about the ‘chore’ of weeding, yet I find it very therapeutic for the mind and soul. If I’m feeling tired or stressed, an hour of weeding soon puts me back on track.

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