Imperfect perfection describes each thing in the garden from the weeds to flowers, from bugs to dirt, from fruit to farmer, each individual item plays an essential part. This imperfect perfection applies to looks, actions, uses, and in the farmers case thoughts, and could even be extended to the wildlife that passes through and the weather that passes over. Paintings and drawings often show things straight and even, reality is often messy, crooked, and missing parts.
Weeds can be one of the most dreaded things in the garden. They grow when and where nothing else will. Through drought and flood, rain, hail, sleet, bugs, and disease they manage to exist, I think that the postal service had a slogan like this once. (Sorry my mind wanders and I don’t think that my postman is a weed.) Some weeds choke out other plants, they poke fingers, and are difficult to control. At the same time some make good ground cover for well established plants by keeping in moisture and blocking other weeds from growing. Their long tap roots pull up nutrients from deep in the soil that most plants cannot reach, dandelions are a common one. Some are also edible, again dandelions fit this description, the greens can be used in salads and the flowers steeped for tea or even jelly. The flowers can be quite pretty also, although I try not to let them get to that point because the flowers just mean seeds are coming and with the seeds comes more weeds.
Flowers are some of my favorite things. Whether they adorn the fruit bearing plants like pumpkins, peas, and tomatoes or are on the dreaded weeds, they add color to the otherwise monochromatic green. Flowers not only are pretty and produce the necessary fruits but they help to attract bees for pollination, essential bugs that destroy evil bugs, and some have smells that are offensive to bugs and animals that would eat on the plants. They are the essence of imperfect perfection. Take the flower in the picture above, it took my breath when I first saw it, being the first sunflower of the year. Yet it’s missing petals and is by far the smallest flower now on the plant, but it’s color and height on the plant gave it immediate perfect status.
Bugs come next on my list and are both essential and bothersome. I had my first infestation of potato bugs on my blue potato plants this year and could have done without them, but I also have ladybugs in the same patch of garden that eat the larva and eggs of the potato bug. Bees make my children nervous but are definitely essential to plant growth and production. Spiders help to keep down the bothersome insect population and I’m thankful for them even though I pretend they don’t exist. These are my most feared creature. I had a tomato plant last year that had an extensive web on it and I had to have my husband harvest the tomatoes from that plant. While I don’t like spiders, I do love seeing there webs sparkling in the morning sun covered in dew. Breathtaking! Caterpillars, worms, and butterflies all play their roll too.
The dirt is another vital part of the garden. It’s alive with organisms that provide the foundation for amazing plant productions. Well cared for it produces crop abundance, neglected it dies and all plant life dies with it. Whether soft and loamy or hard and full of clay we wouldn’t exist without it. I tend to eat an extensive amount throughout the year, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to tell the quality of my soil by the taste? Dirt is also home to the worms that help to aerate the soil and break down the organic matter. On the flip side the soil also can harbor diseases.
Fruit is the reason for my garden. Once the flowers give way to this amazing produce, the colors of the garden change again. Coming in all shapes and sizes these also tend to be more imperfect than what we are used to seeing. It has yet to happen that all of my tomatoes are equal size, color, and roundness or my pea pods perfectly straight and evenly filled. These imperfections are often the cause of wonder, when a carrot splits and looks like a pair of legs or a cucumber curls around a post. Unfortunately these odd looking but still tasty wonders are a hard sell to those who are used to the cookie cutter look of grocery store produce. (I’m going to take a minute to rant about this. Because most people are looking for uniformity in produce a large quantity of fruit is thrown out. To get a uniform product in the quantities that are needed, farms begin to spray crops more heavily to improve yield and reduce disease and pest problems. I had read an article in National Geographic on this topic and the numbers of unwanted produce thrown out each year is astronomical, if I remember correctly in the 50 percent range here in the US. There are some places that are using these goods for food pantries and shelters and some that are making sure the unwanted excess is going to farmers as feed for animals such as hogs and chickens. Just keep in mind that even ugly produce deserves some love.) A garden in the fall that is filled with red tomatoes, orange pumpkins, yellow sunflowers, and tan melons mixed with all the green plants and brown earth is a pretty picture that blurs the imperfect into perfection.
The farmer is far from perfect. Pulling plants that are thought to be weeds, planting at the wrong time, overlooking ripe fruit, over and under watering. Each mistake becomes a lesson that takes us closer to perfection but never allows us to reach the final mark. The farmers fairy tale is a weedless, high yielding, bug and destructive weather free, straight rowed, perfectly planted garden. Produce ripe on our timetable and in the quantities needed. But like all fairy tales ours too has an evil villain and our happily ever after comes in the form of contentment with what was produced despite the trials of the year or the numbers. Our perfection comes with the knowledge that we gave it our best and will strive for better next year.
My imperfectly perfect garden has come to be because of all the perfectly imperfect parts. Taking away any of the components would cause the tower to crumble. I’ll keep my bugs and dirt, flowers and fruits just how they are. (After reading this for corrections I realized that my mind left out weeds from this last sentence. Freudian slip?)