Raising a gardener

Last week I took my son out to college. In the back seat of the car, we had three suitcases, a rug and a garden.

Yes, a garden. The sofa, refrigerator, loft and other essentials of college life were already at the school, since it was his second year.

But, he wanted a garden.

I guess we cultivated this love of gardening (pun intended) by making him pull weeds, pick tomatoes and raise pumpkins for allowance money from a young age. All of these things, which he mostly hated doing at the time, have (after 19 years) apparently born fruit. Once again, pun intended.

But, it all came together when he found a dog-eared copy of Square Foot Gardening in the school library. He came home all excited.

“Dad, have you seen this book, Square Foot Gardening?” he asked. “You should sell it!”

I had the great pleasure of telling him that not only did we already carry it in our store and on our website, but we even had a personal copy of Square Foot Gardening on our bookshelf.

There are two reasons why this felt good. First, I like being able to tell everyone (children and customers alike) that we can take care of their needs. Second, as the father of a 19-year-old, I seldom get an opportunity to claim that I actually know more than he does.

As a matter of fact, we just returned to the practice of square foot gardening this year, after nearly 20 years of doing it the old fashioned, Amish-style “plant in straight rows” method. With the square foot gardening method, you plant in squares (thus the name) and tightly space your plants to prevent weed growth. It takes less space and requires less weeding. With this year’s garden winding down, I’m wondering why we ever left it! It feels good to be back.
My son watering his square foot garden in a corner of his dorm room.
My son’s version of a square foot garden was planted in a four feet by one foot homemade planter box. We wedged it, live tomato plants and all, into the back seat of his Honda Civic. Then we carried it (all 50 pounds of wet potting soil included) up three stories to his dorm room. It’s sitting there today, tomatoes slowly reddening, under his dorm window.

But, the most amazing thing is that during the 14 hour drive across several states to his college, one of the cucumber seeds he’d planted before we left pushed through the surface. By the time we arrived, it was about 3/8″ tall. Apparently, it liked the feeling of going 70 mph with the sun baking down through the back window.

<em>This tiny cucumber plant sprouted before our eyes as we drove to college.</em>
This tiny cucumber plant sprouted before our eyes as we drove to college.

All this made me think about the importance of good growing conditions, like fertile soil, lots of moisture and brilliant sunlight. If we can provide good growing conditions for our children, maybe there is hope for the next generation after all. Of course, it’s more complicated than soil, water and sun.

There are so many ingredients required to raise healthy kids it’s hard to count them all. Here are some I could think of in the 20 minutes it took me to type out this blog entry. You can probably think of a lot more.

– We must live what we believe, behave with integrity and pour on the love and sacrifice.
– We have to set goals, and then adjust our lives to match those goals.
– We must make justice and caring central to our values.
– We have to make sure they are surrounded by a community of friends and family who share our priorities.

If we can do all those things, I believe we can plant new seeds of promising growth. And, with God’s blessing, maybe those new seeds will sprout into healthy adult plants right before our eyes.

I’m proud of my son and the choices he’s made. (At least so far!) Despite my usually well-intended but all too frequent mistakes, he’s well on his way to sprouting a great adult life, full of promise, new growth, and valuable fruit.

There’s hope for tomorrow!

Galen Lehman

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