Our Rural Roots

My Unintentional Garden

Tulips near grain bins (Katie Pratt)

My Farmer spends hours with his father and brother planning for the next growing season. They review all the maps and data to confirm the decision to plant a certain hybrid or variety in a specific field. As much as farming is unpredictable, quite a bit of thought goes into how the next season will begin.

Similarly, I like to think that I spend an equal amount of time planning for my next gardening season. When the garden seed catalogs arrive in the depths of winter, I curl up under a blanket in front of a roaring fire, flipping the pages, waiting for those first hints of spring. I'll take inventory of seeds from the previous year, order the must-haves for the coming year and dream of what could be in the next garden bed.

In reality, my garden-planning happens when I'm elbow deep in iris rhizomes or straddling the strawberry patch that didn't stay within its raised bed. I'll curse Plan A as I formulate Plan B but never have enough time to execute anything other than staying on top of what is already popping out of the ground. As years pass, trees grow and soils change. What was once full sun has become dappled shade. Friends stop to swap plants, and other friends send seeds from afar.

And, that is my joy in gardening. Never knowing what surprise will bloom from year to year. When I move plants around or add something new to a bed, My Farmer says, "Did you write down what you did?" Because inevitably, during one of our meanders at dusk, I'll point to an unusual sprout, muse about where it came from and wonder whether it's a weed or a keeper. Thus, my garden mantra is less about the plan and more about letting things grow and enjoying the occasional surprise.


Katie Pratt writes, farms and grows her family and a garden with a mind of its own from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at https://www.theillinoisfarmgirl.com


Past Issues