Watching my 4-month-old grandson delight in standing in his new walker, I am reminded that there are no “overnight successes” or “quick fixes” in the real world. Babies take months to learn how to stand and walk. Gardens take years to fulfill their creators’ dreams. Every success we experience, be it in our professions, health and fitness, or in the garden, all happen because of baby steps taken over and over again.
Little steps add up
In 2016, my son and I walked across Spain. That was a one-month, 500-mile walk. It was a wonderful experience, and not just because I got to do it with him. Learning first-hand that taking one step after another, no matter how casually, will eventually add up to something significantly bigger. Your garden and landscape work the same way.
Plans, passions, and reality
Most gardeners, especially those new to gardening, would love to have that picture-perfect, trouble-free, highly productive piece of earth seen in movies and magazines. The reality is, elegant botanical gardens have dozens of professional gardeners and countless volunteers who work every day to create those masterpieces. For us home gardeners, getting help like that is nearly impossible. It’s hard enough to find someone to help dispose of an old couch. [And many of those magazine garden, plant, and flower pictures are photoshopped.]
But you can take your passion for gardening and your ideals and get them moving in the right direction by identifying and performing short-term goals regularly and consistently. Baby steps. Say you want a lush, productive blueberry hedge? Start by identifying the best location. Clear away the weeds. Top-dress the area with aged manure and compost. Protect the space with mulch. Conduct research about the best varieties for your microclimate. Eventually, you will install your blueberry plants. And, after a few years and regular care, your blueberry hedge will become a reality. It won’t happen overnight, but those baby steps can and will get you there.
Little doesn’t mean insignificant
Unless we’re talking about diamonds (and babies), small things are often seen as less-than. The truth is, it’s the little things, done repeatedly, that create practically every success. None of us is perfectly fit two months after our New Year's’ resolutions are made. But try adding squats while your microwave is running, or 10 little jumping jacks each time you use the bathroom and see just how much these tiny acts of fitness add up over time. The trick is making these baby steps easy enough to do that there’s no desire to avoid them.
Trying to rid your yard of every weed in a single day is a Herculean task that may make you throw up your hands in despair and quit gardening altogether. Weeding your garden on a regular rotation will never get rid of all your weeds (nothing can do that short of Agent Oranging the neighborhood). What it will do is ensure that you are checking on each area of your garden regularly and removing most of the weeds. Over time, the weeds will be less of a problem and you won’t experience burn-out.