By Trish Woolbright and Kristin Frazier
I often wear a necklace stamped with the words “persistence and patience.” It’s a quiet reminder of two of the qualities I’ve found most necessary to succeed with anything in life. Persistence, because sometimes you just have to keep moving forward, no matter what….and patience, because sometimes it just takes time – time and a lot of hard work.
Gardening is most certainly an activity that requires both persistence and patience – especially for new gardeners. There is so much to learn, and there are so many things (like the weather) which are out of your control. We all start with the best of intentions, but we are only rewarded with a bountiful garden if we are willing to do what it takes.
Tanya wanted to be healthier, and she thought that gardening would be a great way to make positive changes in her life. As a bonus, gardening was something she could do with her child. Tanya contacted CCUA and set up an appointment with Opportunity Gardens Manager Trish Woolbright so that she could begin her gardening adventure.
Soon after, Trish met Tanya at her home to evaluate her yard so that the two could start planning Tanya’s garden. Right away, though, Trish spotted a problem. Tanya’s yard was just too shady for a garden. Fortunately, there was a community garden across the street. Trish helped Tanya contact the community garden and arrange for her own plot. Unfortunately, the plot Tanya was assigned was in what she and Trish termed “The Swamp Land.” It was a rainy summer, and – as I’m sure you can imagine with a name like that – things did not go well. Tanya was frustrated, her son was NOT inspired, and around August she gave up on the attempt.
Despite her early experiences, though, Tanya came back the next year even more determined to make it work. This time she tried creating new bed styles and paid attention to what her neighbors were doing around her. She learned, but every step was a swampy, difficult struggle. Her garden didn’t flourish, and once again she lost heart.
Tanya’s garden may not have been successful during those first two years, but she was learning, and she was trying new things. The best part was that Tanya was learning more and more about how to make vegetables into tasty dishes that her picky son would eat. She was coming to food workshops, sharing cooking videos, looking up recipes, and more. This new love of good food fueled her ambition…even if her gardening skills really weren’t quite there yet.
We had worried that she might give up, but Tanya contacted us once again in her third year, excited because she’d been given a much better plot in the community garden. Tanya used all of the lessons she’d learned over the previous two years, increasing her garden size and planting lots of veggies, including cabbages. Another 3rd year gardener and friend reached out to her and they teamed up to tend the garden. The results were outstanding. Tanya and her friend had an overwhelming abundance of food that year – so much so that she was able to take the extra to work to share with her friends in the break room. That inspired her co-workers to apply for their own gardens, telling us how beautiful Tanya’s garden was!
Tanya is now in her first year of independent gardening, and has taken all that she learned in Opportunity Gardens to create the garden of her dreams. She’s proud of her beautiful garden and of the delicious foods that she’s able to put on the table and share with her friends. While we still swap recipes and tips, Tanya is able to obtain her own plants, soil, and straw, and is sharing the knowledge that she earned with other gardeners too. Tanya’s persistence kept her going when others might have given up, and her patience was rewarded.
Gardening isn’t always easy the first time for everyone, and we are so proud of Tanya for sticking with it and learning how valuable it is. We know that we have empowered a gardener for life.
For more Opportunity Gardens Stories, be sure to check out the Beet archives.