For the past few years, I’ve been a member of our local community greenhouse. The idea is that those of us with less than adequate growing facilities in our own back yards can rent a raised plot of organic soil in a huge greenhouse for around $2/square foot in order to still be able to experience the joy of gardening. I first signed up while our yard was being newly developed, nothing more than a pile of rubble. It’s since been landscaped, and while I do grow a lot of my own veggies in my yard, I really enjoy the community aspect of the greenhouse. You can try to grow almost anything you want in there as long as you keep to organic fertilizers and seeds. I love seeing what other people manage to grow in there, which gives me ideas for next year (corn or tomatillos perhaps?)
The only hardship is, because the greenhouse is a few km from my house, I don’t end up seeing it every day so I can sometimes forget about it. For the most part, I do ok, especially right around now when everything is becoming harvestable so I have something to pick each day. Sometimes though, often at the beginning of the season, I go there, knowing full well that I haven’t been there in a couple of days so it’s going to need a good soaking. Those times, during my trip there I pray silently that nothing wilted past the point of no return. More often than not I have arrived to see the soil freshly watered, because a good samaritan who took it upon themselves to give mine a sprinkle of water to save the plant.
Today as I walked to my garden plot I noticed on of the gardens that was quite dry. The tomato leaves were sagging, the tomatoes so plump and red that there are several falling from the tomatoes withered vines. This wasn’t the first time that I had seen this garden like this so, I figured the owner must have be away, or forgotten to water for a few days. That can be fatal to a garden during the hot weather that we’ve been having, and I knew if they didn’t get some water soon, that would be it for the plants. I grab the garden hose and did what I though the right thing to do was, which was give them a quick sprinkle. Just as I was finishing up, the greenhouse doors opened and a woman came bustling in, her face twisted in anger.
“Excuse me” she said, clearly upset with me. “Can I ask why you were watering my garden?”.
“Oh, sorry” I said, handing her the hose, “they looked like they were thirsty so I thought I would help you out.” It all went incredibly downhill from there.
She was angry that I had watered her garden, and she told me that it had been overwatered lately and it was getting a virus because of it (I’ve personally never heard from this such virus, but I kept quite as I had clearly offended her and she needed to get it off her chest). After she finished, I explained to her that I though I was helping, apologized, and said that I promised I wouldn’t water her garden again. I started to think in my head “wow, it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished” and “wow, I wish I would have watered my garden a bit later instead”. Something she said made me re-think the entire situation, however. As I was exiting the door, with one final statement she concluded our encounter “how will I learn about gardening if somebody else does it for me?”
Everyone has to find their own way, or else they won’t appreciate the experience or learn as much from it. By watering her garden I was essentially telling her that I didn’t think she was doing a good enough job. Had she of came a few days from now instead, rather than seeing a wilted garden due to 4 days of going without water, her garden would be flourishing and vibrant – and she would have no idea why. If she had never gardened before she would assume that she only needed to water once every 4 days, thus she would do so, rendering her plants dead.
So even though I thought I was doing the right thing, I really wasn’t. My helpfulness was doing more harm than good. Everybody has to walk their own path, and create their own journey. It took an act as simple as gardening to remind me of that obvious fact.
So next time, rather than doing what I think is best, I will let the person make their own choices. Who knows – perhaps next year she will learned so much from her experience that she will have the best tomatoes around – and my ‘helping’ could have prevented that.