Used materials look good in the garden.
A worn pair of shoes, an old denim shirt, and a weathered straw hat fashions any gardener in style.
Making do with what we have also fits.
A clean plastic paint bucket can suffice as a watering can. A web of string can create a lattice for climbing beans. A good-sized rock can work as a crude spade.
Before my family forks out extra money for the garden, we look for free solutions. We’re good paying for rent, plants and seeds, maybe some lime and a new pair of gloves. For everything else, we try to make do.
But each year fancy upgrades advertised in the garden catalogs and magazines entice my interest, leading me to an impulse buy. This year’s mistake comes while I am shopping at a local store and happen upon an attractive display of green kiwi plants sold in individual boxes for $7.99 each. Spring fever nudges me as I read that the hardy fruit has no brown fuzz to peel, and its harvests are “fresher than the farm stand!”
Mother’s Day, when we traditionally plant the garden, is a month away. Blizzards are pummeling the Midwest. Parts of our garden fence remain stored in the basement, the garage and the back of our minivan. Frost warnings continue to be a remote possibility this time of year, so we are making do, waiting to plant our garden.
But this miraculous kiwi makes sense. I’m confident I can grow this food. We will be eating kiwi by the pint like cherry tomatoes.
My daffodils are fading. The ornamental pear trees are in full bloom spreading their familiar smell throughout the neighborhood. I’m enjoying the bright yellow forsythia and the bunches of red and yellow tulips I see strategically planted in several flower beds on my warm-weather walks around the block.
Planting season is upon us, and I can’t make do without this kiwi.
My son scolds me in exasperation when he finds the plant still in the box next to the receipt on the kitchen table. He helps me find a pot and some gardening soil. He nurtures the plant and monitors its water intake. I softly talk and sing to the kiwi each time I walk by, encouraging its growth. But over the next few days its single green leaf falls off the plant, which now looks like we stuck three straight, dark pretzel sticks from a cup of salty party mix into the dirt.
So much for my dreams of growing an abundant crop of kiwi the size of grapes that I don’t have to peel. We’ll have to make do without kiwi.
But we can make do with plenty of other items in the garden. Our shovel and rake remain reliable tools each year. Our plastic green watering can survives its annual use. And the sturdy-enough fence does its job.
My family has been using the same plastic green fencing for the past five years. When rips occur, we close them up with twine or zip ties. We bought metal poles that same year and wish we had splurged on the taller ones. Each spring we acknowledge the taller poles would be better. But we make do and hammer our usual into the soil.
Thinking we might indulge this year on upgraded poles, I check for prices. But they fall out of budget. We’ll just make do again.
The day before trash pick-up, after we put our cans by the curb, my son goes for a casual afternoon bike ride through the neighborhood. Later in the evening, we go for a walk. We alter our usual route to do some “curbing.” On his earlier bike excursion, he saw a wooden platform covered in turf grass left on the side of the road that he thought would be perfect for a school project. And a collection of garden poles and fencing was among the trash pile at the house next door to the discarded platform.
He takes me to them. Looking at the collection, I agree that the battered merchandise looks good and at the right price – free. By the time we return with our minivan, the sun has set, and we use the flashlight on our phone to see what we are doing. The homeowner emerges and helps us load his discarded poles and fencing into our vehicle.
“I used them for five years,” the man says, letting go of his gardening materials. “They did their job.”
We plan on giving his stakes and fencing at least five more years of life in the community garden. But if they turn out to be flawed or unusable, that’s OK. We’ll engineer a solution – and make do.