Hope and resilience in the garden

“Happy 2021!” we all said at midnight, and then we had to stop and think about it. Hopefully, we said. Relatively speaking. Couldn’t be worse.

In any case, we are glad to see 2020 behind us. It has been a year defined by awfulness, by extremes, and yet also one in which a lot of us didn’t seem able to get very much done. I’m not going to look back at my gardening resolutions made last January, or at any other goals; I doubt I managed to succeed at any of them. Maybe my resolution this year is not to make resolutions, but just roll with the punches and do what needs to be done.

So yes, it was all pretty terrible. But somehow, when I look back through my photos to come up with some that represent 2020 in a food gardening context, what I see—besides some really quite nice tomatoes—are resilience and hope. Here are two of those photos.

Like most of us, I did practically no traveling in 2020. But in June my husband and son and I got on a plane (carefully) and went to New Mexico to be present at our other son’s wedding—socially distanced and mostly on Zoom—and while we were there we went to the Albuquerque Botanic Garden, where they had created lots of signs like this one to remind people how to be safe. I found the creativity and humor touching, and we had a lovely time wandering around in our masks looking at desert horticulture and imagining rows of chiles, cottonwood leaves, and leafcutter ants (229 of them!) between us and others.

Back home in Germantown, I grew vegetables and watched the world around me grow more unstable. When HarvestShare started up, I volunteered to help out in a small way by coordinating produce donations from the South Germantown Community Garden, where I have a plot, and between July and September we contributed almost 200 pounds of food to the BlackRock Upcounty Consolidation Hub, which was passed on to people in the community who needed help. It was a drop in the bucket, but somebody appreciated all those tomatoes and peppers, and I’m grateful to the garden members who pitched in. I’m also grateful to Montgomery Parks for keeping the community gardens open this year. It meant so much to all of us, not just to be able to grow some of our own food, but also to keep our routines going. The drive to the garden, the weeding and harvesting and even the buggy crop failures: those all represented something normal, something that hadn’t changed utterly.

For a lot of you, gardening was new in 2020, and I hope we at Maryland Grows were able to help. We’ll keep offering advice in 2021; remember that both HGIC and your local Master Gardeners are available to answer questions. Keep an eye out for the Montgomery County Master Gardeners’ new series of free Zoom talks, “A Fresh Start in the Garden,” launching soon!

Gardening is forward-looking by nature, and hopeful. No matter how bad the last season was, we’re sure the next one will be better. We’re not always right, but somehow it never seems to matter. There is always another year; we can always improve our soil and come up with new methods to keep the pests away and the weeds minimal; we can always harvest more and better tomatoes.

Please stay healthy and safe, fellow gardeners, and have a happier 2021! I’ll see you on the other side, when we can crouch close together to examine the bugs on your kale, or discuss potatoes for more than fifteen minutes without enunciating through masks. We’ll get there. And there’s a garden to grow in the meanwhile.

By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.

6 thoughts on “Hope and resilience in the garden

  1. Deborah B Bacharach January 1, 2021 / 1:02 pm

    I enjoyed your blog all year. Gardening and gardener friendships kept me busy and sane this.difficult year.
    I knew it did so for many, but this beautifully written piece of yours confirmed that.

  2. lilyo3 January 1, 2021 / 9:54 pm

    Thank you for this! It was so warming to read.

  3. Maryland Paul January 2, 2021 / 12:19 am

    Thank you for the pleasant article Erica. This was a very nice thing to read as we wrap up our first day of 2021. We’ll grow our garden and ourselves 🙂

  4. Diana Schnabel January 12, 2022 / 1:36 pm

    Hi Erica, Wonderful article. I am looking for a speaker (via Zoom) for my garden club on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 and remember from my MG days that you were very knowledgeable! Any ideas? Hope you get this! Thanks, Diana Schnabel.

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