Learning how to love gardening

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Photo by Ashleigh Rood. Ashleigh Rood’s daughter waters plants in their garden on a sunny day in Spring Valley.

For some, gardening is seen as a hobby for people who have too much time on their hands. It is usually our outdoor areas that are the first to suffer when we are busy or lack the time and energy to put into taming the messes of weeds and flowers.

When we bought our first home, we had big dreams of renovating and breathing new life into our house, but those dreams did not translate to the outside of our home right away. It wasn’t until a few years later that we decided to put some time and effort into our outdoor living space, starting with some flowers and mulch to make the front of our home seem bright and cheery.

Another few years went by before we added decking outback, a white picket fence and newly planted sod to allow for much needed play space for our newest addition, our little girl. All this to say, that much joy and hard work has entered our lives since the decision to beautify the outside of our home and I have learned in a very real way to love gardening.

Gardening teaches you that no matter what you think you know, you can always learn more. I used to wander the isles of the garden section and pick out flowers based on how they looked not on what conditions they best grew in, or what type of sunlight they needed or how much water they liked. I bought the flowers planted them and very often watched them die a slow death.

After too many death beds of flowers, I finally realized that research was the correct way to go about planting. At the very least, I began reading the tags that every flower comes with to know what exactly the plant needed to thrive. The truth is there is a wealth of information out there and you don’t have to be a plant genius to make a garden work, you just need to be willing to learn. Now one of my favorite things to do is watch gardening shows, its entertaining and informative and makes me realize I know just enough about gardening to be dangerous.

Another thing gardening will teach you is that patience and hard work go hand in hand. My husband is good at both of those things so his gardening skills far surpassed mine right away!

For me, gardening wasn’t even close to fun or enjoyable. It was a task that took time and work and nothing with gardening happens overnight. You may have a dream garden in your head and imagine that a weekend of work will achieve that goal, but the truth is that gardening takes a lot of labor and planning. When you finally get something resembling a garden, your hydrangeas die off, your gardenias don’t bloom and your lemon tree gets some sort of leaf eating bug all over it.

But you know what, life goes on, and so does your garden. You realize that hydrangeas need a good amount of watering and pruning and that gardenias love acidic soil and that Neem oil is great at getting those pesky bugs off of your lemon tree.

Gardening also brings people together. When you are out front working on your garden or watering your lawn, you meet people. You learn what they like and what they do in their own garden. Our neighbor a few doors down loves the smell of the jasmine bush that grows next to our mailbox. He says when it’s blooming he can smell it all the way down at his house. It gives us time to chat, and when his orange tree is full of fruit, he brings some by because he knows we like citrus. Our little girls love taking a walk to the other side of the cul-de-sac to visit our other neighbors yard who have a wonderfully sprawling front garden with succulents galore. They even let the girls take clippings of the succulents to plant as they wish in their own little spots at home.

Probably one of the most rewarding parts about creating a garden is wanting to actually be outside enjoying it, instead of inside on electronic devices. Gardening makes you stop and appreciate the small things like monarch butterflies landing on your milkweed plant or a hummingbird drinking from the blooms growing in carefully cultivated space outside. Especially in San Diego, where the weather is so pleasant most of the year, anyone can easily create a garden that they will be able to enjoy all year long.

Gardening truly is more about the journey than about the destination, but then again so is life. So go ahead roll up your sleeves and play in the dirt, meet your neighbors, learn some patience and maybe even the difference between an annual and a perennial plant.