Monday, March 14, 2011


I have not gardened all my life.

I point this out because I just emerged from several lectures by gardeners who all wanted the audience to known that they had gardened all their lives. Gardening lectures and books are full of heart warming stories about gardening with gramps and diggin' fer worms, about earliest memories of harvesting the peas planted with their own grubby, chubby little fingers at the age of 4.

I don't know why garden speakers seem to feel that this is somehow a credential, I mean, I've been banging on things since I was 3, that doesn't make me a drummer. What if lawyers had to have this credential--"I've been trying criminals all my life. Why, I remember researching precedents at granddaddy's firm when I could barely walk."

I find it off-putting. While I understand that the impulse comes from a good place in the heart-- the lifelong love of gardening-- it seems superfluous. Does it really matter that you've always been a gardener? Perhaps it's because everyone really can learn to do this-- since in the not-too-distance past everyone did do this, and in fact everyone learned it from gramps--the largely self-taught experts want to establish their bona fides. The statement of an expert: "I've been doing this my whole life" suggests that if you have not been doing this your whole life, you cannot possibly aspire to the depth of knowledge, not to mention the degree of cool, that the speaker evinces.


I have not been gardening all my life. My mother was not a gardener. My grandmother was not a gardener. I come from a long line of non-gardeners. I taught myself to garden as an adult. I also went to college as an adult. I learned to drive as an adult (well, if you count 16 as adult). I never had sex until I was an adult. I never had a job until I was an adult. I learned to skate as an adult. I learned Spanish as an adult.

You don't have to have gardened as a child to be a gardener. You don't have to come from a family of gardeners. Your mother needn't be a gardener and grampa doesn't have to own a farm. You can always learn something new, about gardening, or cooking, or anything that interests you. Today, for instance, I learned to make lemon curd from a book. Sorry, grandma, missed that lesson.

Of course, I'm just as guilty of the pointless stories about how I started to garden. I love to tell people how I started, what the first thing was that I grew, how the garden expanded over the years.

But I don't mistake childhood memory for expertise, or nostalgia for knowledge.

Lemon Thumbprint Cookies
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1/3c lemon juice
zest from 2 lemons
3 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 salt

Whisk dry ingredients together, In another bowl cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in juice and zest. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (over mixing will make this dough tough). Cover and chill until dough is firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll into balls using about a tablespoon of dough for each. Place on cookie sheet. Make indent with thumb in center of each cookie and fill with lemon curd. (Yes, I'm going to make you make your own. It's easy.)

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or till edges are just turning a light golden brown.


  1. Lolz, I've always wanted to talk about this! I hated gardening when I was a kid. My mom grew a few veggies but all I got to do was pull weeds and get yelled at a lot. Not cool. I do not, as it goes, have garden mentors or garden inspiration, unless you count a random hybrid tomato. In my mid-20s, I grew a tomato in a pot on the deck of my condo and it all blossomed (ha ha ha) from there. I'm an intuitive gardener and taught myself.

  2. I'm a lemonoholic so I'll have to give these a try. MmmMmm

  3. Hi Xan

    I found your post very interseting, I did grow up in a gardening family, including having own little garden by the age of eight in my mom's big garden.

    Having said that, I don't think that it means I know all there is about gardening by any means.

    As an Adult, its a wonderful thing that I get to read and learn about all the different ways to try gardening, and its one of my favorite topics to visit with my mom and aunties about, I get to ask.. why did Grandpa do this or that.. Why did Grandma plant those together, and at the same time,

    I can email photos and share info on something different that I tried this year and or the one year I sent Seeds to everyone in their stockings and we all grew them that year and it was such a great thing to talk about how did it grow in your area and share photos from across the country.

    Alway, Always more to learn.

  4. I did find this to be an interesting post, too. I think gardening is a mix between experience and book learnin'

    I have a bachelor's and master's degree in horticulture, but I learn new things by being out in the garden, and reading gardening books and info every day. Just today, I read something online that taught me that I need to cover up my leeks so I get nice fat, white stems. I didn't know that!

    Some things you can learn from books. Other things you need to learn by doing. For me, the book learnin' has been reinforced by the "doing" part, and vice-versa. It isn't a one-way street.

  5. Katie, I'm always in such awe of the people with the book learning! Plus, they get all the good jobs ;) It's not that it isn't wonderful that people gardened as kids--I made my own kids garden with me after all--but that the love of gardening, and the knowledge, doesn't HAVE to come from childhood. Hands-in-the-dirt knowledge and love gained first as an adult gives you just as good a bona fide!