The Southern Chester County Weeklies (http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com)

FROM THE GROUND UP: When you just don’t love gardening


Thursday, June 15, 2017

This could only happen to my friend, Amanda. Amanda lives in East Whiteland Township, in Pennsylvania. Last Sunday, she went outside “just to pull a few weeds” from her walkway. No need to put on shoes for that! But she managed to stub her toe on one of the pavers and cut her foot. It turns out that this was just a minor gardening skirmish; two years ago, she had to be driven to the hospital following a more serious gardening accident. Poor Amanda! She hates gardening, so racking up injuries adds, well, injury to insult.

Hating gardening started when she was a young child growing up in Kimberton on a several-acre property. As Amanda describes it, “As soon as I was tall enough for a chore, my mom would set me to work on it.” One of her first chores from about age five was pulling weeds from the flower beds. She remembers thinking the five-year-old version of, “This sucks.”

Her parents sent her to what was then called the Kimberton Farm School (today, the Kimberton Waldorf School), where the students learned a lot of aspects of agriculture. Amanda didn’t like that, either. “I do well at the grocery store,” she jokes. “I don’t do well in the vegetable garden.”

Joking aside, Amanda told me that a large part of her aversion to gardening is that she is incredibly allergic to poison ivy. She’s had it nearly everywhere on her body, including in her eyes. The result is a “really legitimate fear” of contracting it again.

Amanda is the only person who has ever told me that they outright hate gardening (although she loves gardens). Along with the fear of poison ivy, she says that she doesn’t like getting hot. She doesn’t like getting sweaty. So it turns out that her deck and patio “gardens” — flowers and herbs in containers — are perfect for her; splashes of color and flavor, with no stress. At the moment she has impatiens, petunias, and an assortment of herbs: basil, rosemary, oregano, and cilantro.

“I don’t really know anything about gardening,” she confesses, “so I grow the same things over and over.” Like the impatiens. The petunias were a gift from a friend. Thankfully, they’re doing well.

Amanda also acknowledges that another obstacle to her liking gardening is that she’s “just a klutz.” That accident two years ago? She was opening some bags of stone mulch to spruce up a little fenced-in area, and managed to stab herself in the knee. The trip to the hospital gained her three stitches and a tetanus shot.

“I know people find gardening meditative,” she notes, “but it stresses me out and makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’d rather cook a dinner for 60 people than garden for an hour. There are few things I like as much as having people in my house and cooking for them. I’m like an Italian grandma.”

I asked her about growing vegetables. She said that while she likes the idea of it, she knows she doesn’t have the skills for it, and since she doesn’t love gardening ...

I found myself remembering my grandparents. My grandfather had a huge kitchen garden. He’d drop the day’s pickings at the back door. My grandmother would turn them into meals. Maybe Amanda’s perfect match is a guy who loves growing vegetables but hates to cook.

Note to readers: If you’re interested in an update on the black swallowtail caterpillar (From the Ground Up, June 1, 2017), I’ve posted an update and photos to my Chester County Roots Facebook page.

Pam Baxter is an avid organic vegetable gardener who lives in Kimberton. Direct e-mail to pamelacbaxter@gmail.com, or send mail to P.O. Box 80, Kimberton, PA 19442. Join the conversation at “Chester County Roots,” a Facebook page for gardeners in the Delaware Valley. Go to Facebook, search for Chester County Roots, and “like” the page. To receive notice of updates, click or hover on “Liked” to set your preferences.