Confessions of a Reluctant Gardener


By Graeme Isbister

I was half-way through my least favorite gardening job when I thought, for the umpteenth time, “Why, really, am I doing this…?” And my second thought. “And not just this particular job but many (most?) of the chores associated with a vegetable garden…Do the benefits outweigh the drudgery?”

The task at hand: turning the compost pile – forking the half-rotted (sorry, “composted”) slimy pile of kitchen scraps, garden chaff, autumn leaves and other miscellany out of the beehive style composter and into the nearby tumbler style composter which, with the addition of some top soil starter and, If I remember, regular rotation, will produce rich, loamy soil in time for next year’s garden.

Not that the otherwise icky job of transferring the slimy mess (Why is it always the most disgusting clumps that fall through the tines of the fork and need to be picked up manually and deposited in the right bin…?)

Where was I? Oh yes, not that all this forking is without its benefits: “Aha, so that’s where the missing paring knife/teaspoon/dessert fork has been hiding all these months.”

And revelations: “My gosh, we seem to eat a lot of avocados…”

And questions: “What is the nuclear half-life of these avocado’s pits and skins? Do they ever break down and become, you know, compost?”

But, but, I seem to suffer from some kind of seasonal affective disorder – gardening variety.

In the fall, as the days shorten and other interests beckon, I walk past my bedraggled looking plants all crying out, “Deal with me now, you sluggard!” Or words to that effect…

And, truth be told, I don’t want to. The enthusiasm I felt in the early spring to shovel, bend, sift, fork, rake, measure, clip, mix, bend some more, swallow a few ibuprofen, wheelbarrow, prune, tie, bend a lot more has inexplicably waned over the summer and early fall.

Added to that , of course, have been the daily hand watering over the crazy hot, dry days of summer; re-planting all those seeds beaten by those adorable towhees and their kin; fertilizing, weeding, mulching; patrolling the perimeter to ensure marauding, voracious deer find no breaches in the defenses; regular, I mean regular surveillance and detection of signs of other pests of the two, four, six (and more?) legged variety; researching antidotes to these infestations with neighbors, friends and Google; replacing yet again the carrot-covering remay cloth that acts like a sail, catching the mildest summer zephyr; etc.

All of this so my little plot will produce, among other things, two, only two, of THE BEST SWEET PEPPERS I HAVE EVER TASTED!

So there’s that.

But is it enough?

Certainly my current reticence is a sign of advancing age or, perhaps “accumulated gardening age.” I have had a vegetable garden, with only a couple of years off, since my School Garden days as a ten year old on Fairfield Island in Chilliwack.

And I get the whole diurnal, biorhythm thing. It’s fall, right? Slow down.

And not that there aren’t other benefits.

I will drift off to sleep tonight, perhaps riding a couple of Extra-strength Advil, secure in knowing my compost-forking is done for another season.

And, for some reason, dreaming about doing it all over again next spring.