Think About It

The Cost of Fresh Flowers, Green Grass and Fresh Fruit

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | April 02, 2011

"The garden is growth and change and that means loss as well as constant new treasures to make up for a few disasters."
Mary Sarton

Every time I go by a brilliant flower garden or a well manicured lawn or I take a bite of delicious fruit, I think about the cost to produce them. No, I am not referring to the cost of seeds or plants or fertilizer or tools. The primary cost is the work the gardener must invest. That is the real cost. 

I am writing this column after I finished about four hours getting my yard ready for the fresh growth of spring. When I got up this morning I realized I had a few aches and pains that I didn't have at the start of yesterday. It was a perfect day for a gardener. The sun was out and the temperature was around 50 degrees with a slight breeze now and then to keep me cool. 

But as I went about my annual routine, I thought about my cost for flowers, green grass and fresh fruit. No matter how much I spend on seeds or plants or fertilizer or tools, the greatest cost was the blood (just a little), sweat (quite a bit) and tears (not yet; that comes after the deer eat my tulips) that I gave to make a garden a garden. 

There is no garden without hard work. Pulling a rake across the lawn again and again is backbreaking labor. Getting up and down and up and down loading debris into a wheelbarrow and taking it to a compost pile definitely raises the heart rate. You just can't have a garden without lots of hard work long before the plants take off in the spring. 

There is no garden without great wisdom and care. For months the remnants of last year's growth have been accumulating everywhere. Dead leaves are intertwined in the bushes and piled in every nook and cranny. Dead wood is all over the yard. Vibrant, producing branches of last year are now dead and dry. They must be removed. Hydrangeas cannot produce new beauty if the dried snowball blooms from last summer remain on their branches. 

I have seven clumps of decorative grasses and all winter they have collected spectacular tufts of snow which again and again have inspired my photography hobby. But now, those grasses must be cut down to make way for the new growth of spring. 

And so the process of removal is one of the most costly parts of spring. Do I cut this off? How far should I go to the base of the plant? Do I dig this up and replace it? Oh, the wisdom needed to care for these precious plants. It doesn't matter if they are old or young, they all must have the old removed to make room for the new. 

The gardener must also know which tools to use. I must not use a chainsaw if hand clippers will do. I can't use my 24 metal tined rake on tender shoots. So, I take my old wheelbarrow and shovel and clippers and gloves and I go to work. Sometimes I even take my gloves off and tenderly move debris when I am close to those new green shoots. 

The gardener must also realize the use of time. Oh, the patience to let the plants grow at their pace and in their way. Removing the stuff of winter makes room for growth. No gardener can make the garden grow. 

A garden is a wonderful metaphor for life. For as Calvin Coolidge said, "All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work." 

Are you growing something this year? Whether you are growing house plants or a huge garden, or your life, there is always a cost involved. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu
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