When I first became passionate about vegetable gardening many years ago, the concept of a “green thumb” fascinated and frustrated me. I have always felt there was no end to what I could learn in my life. However, it seemed that a “green thumb” was something you could not really learn; you were just born with it! My rational mind could not accept that one, so where did I start digging?
I firstly attempted to understand what a “green thumb” commonly meant. The obvious conclusion was that a person with a “green thumb” is someone who, on average, is quite successful with their food growing efforts. In other words, they don’t always have failed crops and their food production gets more efficient as they go. They may, of course, have some bad years, as we all do in life, but generally the curve was upwards.
I later found this conclusion, only defined the results of a “green thumb”, rather than what it really meant and how it was acquired. If one purely focused on results over a snapshot of years, one could say that a person who is a big user of synthetic fertilisers to push plant growth has a “green thumb”. A conclusion which surely does not stack up!
Successful food gardening, in my experience, involves a multitude of factors and I feel they all add up to a “green thumb” and they can all be developed with experience and guidance. These factors are:
1. Curiosity – A curiosity for knowledge on all parts of organic food gardening.
2. Objective thinking – A capacity for objective thinking, rather than critical thinking. By this, I mean to study how things are going in your garden and gain wisdom from the successful and not so successful results, rather than dumping on yourself or giving up if things don’t work as you expected. Negative thinking closes the mind to gaining wisdom from experience.
3. Patience – Accepting that food gardening will test your patience
4. Observation – Strong powers of observation with the discipline to record what you have done, so you can look back on it later. It is often difficult to remember when lots of other stuff is filling your mind.
5. Enlivening your soil – Using appropriate methods to enliven the soil in your garden without using chemicals. Enlivened soil is the building block of any successful garden.
6. Interconnectedness – A strong recognition of the inter-connectedness of everything in and around the garden and its sanctity. This includes your feelings when you are in the garden. A feeling of love in your gardening work and an appreciation for creating beauty in the garden will add an unseen energy or magic to the garden.
7. Commitment – A strong personal commitment to the reasons why you are engaged in the activity. It should not be just for the reason of growing food, but should come from such factors as:
improving your personal health and well being,
connecting with other people in a healthy pursuit,
exercising your creative powers,
connecting with your children, or
making a contribution to improving the environment
I think its interesting to see that most of the “green thumb” factors above reflect how to manage your inner-self. That’s the hidden treasure with immersing yourself in food gardening. It not only allows you to grow healthy food, but also creates many opportunities for your “inner gardening”.