The Dirt

The Hard Truths of Gardening

The deer had to step around a couple of shrubs and over two or three perennials they normally devour to get to my bronze fennel, which they hadn’t eaten in all the years I had been growing it. They also chowed down on a geranium, which I didn’t think they would have touched. Had the deer merely turned around, they would have seen the big, juicy, delectable hosta I don’t care about and would have preferred them dine on.


Thus, I came to confront one of the hard truths of gardening: Deer are just like me. They love plants and will eat anything at anytime (except seafood). A hard truth is something we know but don’t want to accept—a fact we act as if isn’t true, no matter how many times reality tells us otherwise.


Hearing these truths can be bracing yet refreshing, like a splash of cold water in the face. In his article “Just Because It’s Organic . . .,” (in our Sept/Oct issue) Jeff Gillman offers us a number of hard truths, many of which are sure to spark some shock and others applause. In the spirit of Jeff’s article, I thought I might offer some of the hard truths of gardening, but I am aiming more for applause than shock:


• Plants die. Sometimes it’s your fault; sometimes it isn’t.
• Lawn grass would rather grow in your garden than in your lawn.
• “No maintenance” is just a figure of speech.
• If you water your garden, it will rain. If you don’t water, it will be dry.
• If you let other people dictate your garden choices, you will end up with a garden that doesn’t make you happy.
• Weeding is not a good way to introduce gardening to a young child who can’t tell the difference between the plants you want and the ones you don’t.
• A gardener—of any skill level—who can’t admit to making mistakes is either a fool or a liar.
• You should stop pruning while the tree still has a few branches.
• If deer don’t eat it, then rabbits, voles, or groundhogs will.
• You will often buy more plants than you need.
• You will often buy more plants than you can afford.
• You will always buy more plants than your spouse thinks you need or can afford.


This list could go on, and I encourage you to send us your list of hard truths. But I have to return some plants to the nursery or else, my wife has promised, the phrase “garden bed” will take on a new meaning for me.

—Steve Aitken, Editor

View Comments


  1. BillyGoodnick 08/12/2009

    Steve: fun post. Love the idea of hard, eternal truths; especially the one about having kids help with the weeding. Yet we still return to our gardens to fight the good fight.

    Gotta spam this one out! Twitter and Facebook need your wisdom.

  2. BeWaterWiseRep 08/31/2009

    These are some interesting hard truths about gardening! We must resort to water-wise gardening and conserve scarce water. Go to for easy tips on gardening and help the conservation effort!

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