It turns out, nearly every year we plan, work, plant, tend, and harvest a garden of edible treasures, there is inevitably some deeper truth mined from the soil and its produce.
We’ve just begun this summer’s work, and already our strawberries have reminded me of a truth I often forget.
See, we didn’t actually do anything for these strawberries this year. Last year, because we all love eating strawberries, we decided to buy several plants (maybe twelve) to “try it out” in our garden. The plants seemed to thrive, producing many of the small, white flowers. Anticipation grew as we expected the sweet, juicy strawberries to begin appearing in the dozens!
But they didn’t. They really didn’t. By the end of the summer, the flowers that did appear and disappear only managed to produce less than half of a dozen berries. And really, we didn’t get to eat any of them, because the bugs got to them before we did.
Disheartened by the obvious failure—but only slightly so—we thought we’d give it one more try next year, and so, we left the strawberry plants in the ground, over winter. (Though I can not recall exactly why we did this, since we removed all the other used-up plants.)
After the long, hard, very cold winter, spring once again sprung. As everything came to life again, the strawberry plants followed the same pattern of rejuvenation. The leaves broadened, the plants stood taller on their thin stems, and after a very short time, the white flowers appeared again!
This time, there were more. Many more. And we saw bees buzzing, doing their handiwork.
And then we saw berries. LOTS of berries! Some of them already much larger than anything we saw last year.
What has occurred to me several times as we watch this bountiful future harvest take shape before our eyes is this: We did not do this.
Last year we bought the plants and brought them home. We carefully planted, tended, weeded, watered, and watched. And we reaped next to nothing. (You could accurately just call it “nothing”.)
But this season, we didn’t do any of that. We did weed out a bit of the unwanted extra plants around the strawberries, but we also left quite a few in amongst them. We did not till the soil. We didn’t really take any care whatsoever of these plants in this process.
And yet they bloom, and bring forth fruit. In abundance!
Perhaps things go better when we leave them alone?
I have clearly applied this thought to parenting our children. As our oldest quickly approaches adulthood, I am constantly finding myself questioning how much (if any) I should involve myself in his decision-making. I’ve tended toward less or no involvement (though my own self struggles against that, too) and I think he is and will be the better for that.
It’s hard to not do anything.
But the strawberries from our untended plants will exceed last year’s tended produce times relative infinity.
It’s hard to not interfere. But it would appear that some things in life are better when we just let them happen.