This essay about gardening contains more good advice for teachers than anything offered by the U. S. Department of Education or, for that matter, many in-service training sessions inflicted on teachers.
Next year in the garden I won't plant my seeds too early just because I am excited by a warm day in April. I will wear a long sleeve shirt while pruning roses, raspberries, and blackberries. I will open seed packets the right way so that they reseal. I won't just rip off the tops, then wonder why my pockets are filled with spilled seed.
Next year in the garden I will read the instructions before planting the seeds. That is, I will read the instructions IF I remember my reading glasses. Gardening is yet one more activity that now requires those damn things.
Next year in the garden I won't read the newspapers as I lay down the mulch, and I will take off my muddy boots before coming into the kitchen.
I won't shout "Ignition!" when I see the first green dots of germination. I won't pump my first and say "Yes!" when green shoots of garlic poke through the hay. I will take it in stride, with the right stuff of a master gardener.
Next year in the garden I will keep detailed records of what I do, when, and where. I won't mark planted rows with little sticks and kid myself that I will remember what I planted
And I won't plant too many zucchini, or too few. I promise.
Next year in the garden I won't wander out after showering and changing clothes to admire my work and bend down to pluck just one errant weed, because I've learned that one good weed deserves another.
I won't work with my shirt off, even though it feels so good, because I know the sun is bad for me. I will always put on sun screen (SPF 45 and wear a wide-brimmed hat.)
I will make myself smile by singing "Inch by inch, row by row...", and not once will I think about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I will, however, wonder who the Red Sox will use as a fifth starter and marvel at the ability of David Ortiz to deliver in the clutch.
Next year in the garden I will do successive plantings so that I always have tender lettuce. I won't say "What the heck" and empty the rest of the packet.
I won't plant peas in August that don't have a prayer of bearing fruit before the frost. Next year in the garden I won't curse potato bugs, but will accept my responsibility for the pests I attract. I will outwit potato bugs by not planting potatoes. Next year, that is.
I will de-sucker the tomatoes religiously, and I will build those groovy bent-wood trellises I saw in the gardening magazine. I will say a prayer when I eat the first red fruit.
I won't let the rogue squash grow, thinking it might turn out to be the elusive "great pumpkin."
Next year in the garden, at least once, I will strip off all my clothes, lie spread-eagled in the dirt and say "Take me, God, I'm yours!" Then I will take a an outdoor shower, scrubbing every noon and cranny, and feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
Next year in the garden, as I pull weeds, I won't think that I coined the phrase "Nature abhors a vacuum." (Who did coin that phrase, if not me?).
I won't wonder why I planted mustard greens.
I will wear a long-sleeve shirt while pruning the roses. Did I already say that?
I won't start the chipper-shredder "just to see if it will start," then put through a sunflower stalk "just to see what happens," especially when I am just killing time before we go out to dinner.
Next year I won't bore visitors with extensive garden tours, filled with eloquent soliloquies on the virtues of compost. I won't describe myself as the "poor man's Eliot Coleman."
I will pick the chard before it becomes tough and stringy.
I won't stand speechless before a ten foot sunflower and marvel at the memory of pressing a single seed into the soil with my thumb. I won't laugh out loud when I see three blue jays hanging upside down on the foot-wide seed pods, possessed by gluttony.
I won't be disappointed when the Sox fall by the wayside, because I know there is always next year.
Next year in the garden, I will cover at the hint of frost.
I will plant my bulbs and garlic before the ground freezes, but I won't cover them with mulch until the ground is hard and critter-proof.
I won't pretend not to be disappointed when my garlic and cherry tomatoes fail to score ribbons at the Tunbridge World's Fair.
Next year in the garden I won't break into Joni Mitchell's "Urge for Going" when I see a chevron overhead.
Next year in the garden I won't get delusional when I see this year's seeds on sale. I won't buy enough to feed all of central Vermont and I won't think I'm a rich man as I flip through the colorful packets in January. I won't question why I bought two types of turnips. I hate turnip.
I won't delude myself into thinking I can grow seven varieties of pepper from seed.
I won't buy seeds for inedible greens with exotic Japanese names,
I will store my squash properly, so they don't rot .
I will give gifts of garlic and elderberry wine as if I am bestowing frankincense and myhrr (even though the elderberry wine sucks). I won't take it personally when I see how cheap garlic is at Costco
I won't check the mail for the first seed catalog the day after Christmas.
I will think good thoughts when we eat last summer's pesto.
Next year in the garden I won't think I am part of life's great cycle just because I pee on the frozen compost.
Stephen Morris, gardener extrordinary, is the proud winner of the blue ribbon for Biggest Zucchini at the 1999 Tunbridge World's Fair. In his spare time, he is Publisher of Green Living Journal.