On Making a Garden
Gardening has been discovered by many single women as an avocation which grows in interest and in value. As housing developments have increased the opportunities for single women to escape from a too-gregarious existence an increasing number of them have found it possible to do some gardening. For the mature single woman who no longer feels able to play tennis, or basket ball, or other strenuous games of school and college days, gardening may offer an invitation to an hour in the open which she is willing to accept. Competitive games requiring strenuous and sustained effort are suited for very few women even in their best years and they are certainly too much for the average woman over thirty who has worked all day at her job. Then, too, she probably wants to escape the competitive element when she goes home from her work to another of life's phases.
Gardening offers many advantages in the element of time if it is kept in the status of an avocation. One can garden any day or at any time of the day if it is not raining. Even with a gardener to do the strenuous necessary work there always remains something to be done. There is early morning work if one wishes to rise early but if those tasks are left to someone else there is much that can be done in the cool of the evening after the day's work at the office is finished.
One can garden alone, with a member of the family, or with a congenial friend. Even if one gardens alone, gardening is in essence not a solitary occupation, for so many people are garden enthusiasts that if a new gardener so much as mentions her new interest she will be overwhelmed with advice, solicitations, seed catalogs, seeds, cuttings, plants and sundry other forms of assistance.
Gardening can be begun without much previous preparation or study. Any city woman, however great her ignorance of nature's ways, can tuck a few seeds into the earth and wait for dynamic developments. Wholesale dealers in seeds and bulbs have a kindly eye on the amateur's patronage and some of them have gone so far as to attach a "this side up" sign on the proper side of the bulbs which they put on the market in order to forestall future complaints from their customers. Department of Agriculture agents, county demonstration agents, state schools of agriculture and various other agencies are ready not only with pamphlets written for the simple beginner but with willing advice of a more personal nature to those whose perplexities are not resolved by reading the pamphlets. A beginning in gardening may be quite inexpensive if funds are low. Seeds cost little, or a "without funds" lady can obtain more than she needs from the surplus of neighbors and friends who are proud of having their own seeds to give. Any plot of earth available will do for a beginner, for the variety of plants is so large that any soil which receives even a minimum of teasing and prodding will produce some-thing the first year which the eye can see and which will constitute evidence to the novice that nature does respond to our efforts, however childish and fumbling they may be. The possibilities of development are endless. There are soils to know and under-stand and be able to handle; there are fertilizers which we can use to make the soils do as we like; there are the endless varieties of seeds and plants which afford the possibilities of choice and of change from year to year. There are enemies to be outwitted and conquered, the wily and underhanded cut-worm, the noiseless mole that tunnels under your blooming surface, the hornet that bluffs and threatens but fights in the open.
One tired school teacher who had begun her adventure in gardening at sixty spent an entire afternoon in telling us of her battles with woodchucks and rabbits and other regional fauna the first year she made a garden at her upstate New York farm. During their first forays her lettuces were eaten, her herb garden was almost completely cut to pieces, and other damage done. But she took up the cudgels, alone and with only so much knowledge as she had been able to glean from Department of Agriculture bulletins, and rushed into battle. After a few preliminary skirmishes in which she only lost ground, she was able to get the situation in hand through the use of traps, and vigilance, and the use of a shot gun. At the end of the summer the yield from her garden, which she exhibited in cans, or as preserves, pickles, or in other forms, was such as to give her a satisfying feeling of accomplishment even though she did not know whether or not she had netted a profit.
The time spent in the open and even the humblest cooperation with nature bring a healing and renewing of both mind and body which eyen the newest beginner remarks. Poets have written of it, and science and medicine haye explained it. But the benefits to health, to confidence, and to faith which are visible in those who haye followed this way of return to a more normal and balanced living tells the story most convincingly. Obviously it is not the path for every woman; not everyone likes gardening or has the physical strength and aptitude for it. But it brings repose to many who want and need at times a clearer, saner outlook than that which is found in the monotony and repetitiousness of group living and of the feeling-dominated mind of the crowd. It is not so much to escape from the crowd that one goes away at times from its incessant demands but it is to rediscover and renew personal life which threatens to be submerged entirely in the stream of common living. For the single woman this renewal of self and the maintenance of personal balance seems to be particularly necessary because of the extent to which work dominates her life and threatens the impoverishment of its more personal aspects. But when she can bring herself to look at nature and at the general scheme of things simply and directly through her own eyes, she may in some one moment, more vivid and luminous than the rest, recapture that clearer and simpler view of all living things and of her relation to them which she has lost in the rush of living. And if she can, even for one brief moment, recapture that long clear view, all things fall into a perspective which removes fear and doubt and which restores to the spirit its peace and its faith in living.