Now before you admire my exceptional gardening skills, let me tell you—this has been my worst year gardening.
In March I planted cold-weather seeds like lettuce, pea, spinach and arugula. I pictured bushy plants and the bounty of salads we’d have. And I waited with anticipation for the seeds to germinate and the plants to grow—“35 days to harvest” the seed packets promised.
I waited. And waited. And waited. 35 days became 50, then 70...
A few sprouts emerged. The peas gave early hope of success. But just when the peas started to climb their trellis, a critter got to them. It was a pea pod massacre.
Seemingly frozen in time, tiny shoots of lettuce didn’t grow. And I’m not sure the spinach ever germinated! It all gave new meaning to the term “micro greens.”
Discouraged, but not defeated, in May I set my sights to the summer planting. I added compost and fertilizer to spruce up the soil. Tiny tomato, cucumber, zucchini and melon plants made their home in my garden. Yet again, I had hope.
At the end of June (100 days after planting) I discovered that the lettuces had finally grown enough to be picked. Excitedly, I snipped off some tender leaves and went inside to concoct a salad. I took a bite. Mmmm! Wait … does the lettuce taste bitter? Nah. Well, maybe… but it’s not that bad, really.
The next week I picked a leaf of lettuce and bit it. The bitter flavor filled my mouth. “Yuck!” I said and spit it out. Lettuce season was officially over. One, one-person salad was the extent of my harvest. I ripped out the plants to make room for the summer bounty.
The good news is that I’m having the best tomato season I’ve had in a long time. Gazpacho, BLTs, tuna stuffed tomatoes, tomatoes and mozzarella, and plain old sliced tomatoes have been dietary staples for the last month.
The other summer plants showed promise. Now the cucumber vines are yellowing and ready to bite the dust. The zucchini got a root rot after only a few weeks of producing fruit. Now the condition is spreading to the melons and they’re dying too. Plus, the weeds are taking over, too.
But how exciting it was to discover a cantaloupe growing in the giant tangle of melon vines! Our first one—ever. Sadly, however, it might be the only one.
So yes, I’m bummed about the unfruitfulness of my gardening efforts. My gardening motto has always been “low maintenance.” I plant and water, and fertilize a little bit. Veggies grow. We pick them. We eat them. I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble.
In my personal and spiritual life I want low maintenance, too. I‘ll sow seeds to share the gospel, till the soil of my gifts, fertilize a friendship or water a ministry. And I expect to see results.
But often, like my garden, there is no harvest. A friendship doesn’t blossom. Efforts to share my gifts are unfruitful. A ministry withers. I’ll be honest. My response isn’t to dig deeper and try harder. It’s to reassess and move to greener pastures. I don’t want to waste my time—or suffer the disappointment.
In any type of garden—real or metaphorical—it’s hard to keep going when we can’t see the results. But doesn’t this attitude run contrary to the gospel message? Isn’t our motivation for more than what is evident before our eyes? Aren’t perseverance and generosity key components of living a life surrendered to the Master Gardener?
Indeed, God’s Word offers instruction: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9: 6, 8)
I hear Jesus saying, “Keep going. Keep sowing. Keep tending—in all your gardens—one cantaloupe, one heart won for me at a time. Don’t strive for results you can see. Strive because you love me. I will bless your efforts abundantly. Take time to plant and to water, but know that it is I alone, who makes things grow. Trust me to take care of the harvest.”
But, the skies will clear and the sun will dry the soil. Bountiful harvest or not, I’m not ready to quit. After all, fall lettuce planting season is right around the corner and I have hope.