Carole Townsend

There’s something fundamentally satisfying about gardening
By Carole Townsend

I do it every year; I write something about gardening at about the same time my husband and I begin turning the earth and planting things in our own gardens and flower beds. Also every year, I fight the urge to jump the gun and begin planting too early just because I have spring fever.



Around mid-March, the home improvement stores and gardening centers tempt us with  shameless displays of brilliant flowers and tender green plants, knowing full well that the month of March in Georgia has many personalities, and some of them are icy. 

Still, the urge to play in the dirt was too strong for me to resist this year, and a couple of weeks ago, I planted some things in our vegetable garden that I’ve never tried growing before. I planted two kinds of lettuces, spinach and broccoli, all cool season crops. We’ll see how they do. Temperatures could stay sort of cool, like they are now, or they could skyrocket into the eighties by the weekend. Who knows? But isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of gardening, anyway?

My dad was a gardener. He loved it. When I was a kid, our home was in a subdivision in Doraville. Dad managed to plow and maintain a pretty good sized garden, growing squash, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, onions, cucumbers, you name it. I suppose that’s where I got my love of gardening. Daddy has been gone two years now – this month, in fact – and since he died, gardening has taken on a new meaning for me. I feel that I am somehow keeping his memory alive by doing it, especially when our children want to help, or when we cook together using vegetables that we’ve grown in our own gardens.

There’s something fundamentally satisfying about gardening, isn’t there? There’s something about turning the dirt, about planting seeds and a few weeks later, seeing the first tender shoots peek up through the warm earth. There’s something about tending the plants, nurturing them while weeding out the unwanted growth, about seeing first the blooms, then the fruits, appear. There’s something about waiting until the time is right to harvest the vegetables. I think there are life lessons in gardening.

For the past two years, I’ve been both a little sad and very excited for the planting season to begin. Gardening has always reminded me of Dad; he and I used to talk about it long after his ability to do it had passed. We’d talk about why my tomatoes were getting black spots at the stem end, or what to do about moles and chipmunks and mice who dined on the fruits of our labor before we even got the chance to sample them. He always had an old remedy for any problem I might encounter, and he loved sharing it. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered was the time we spent talking about it.

When Dad passed away, he was 93 years old. I think gardening had something to do with his longevity, but that’s just a theory. When he died, my husband built for me a small sitting area with benches, and we planted a dogwood tree to shade it.  This memorial to my dad, which I cherish, is situated right next to our garden. I like to think that, on sunny days when the air feels just right and my wind chimes are talking to each other, maybe Dad is out there checking out the plants, or maybe he’s just sitting and enjoying the view. That may sound silly to some of you but to me, it’s a comforting thought.

Yes, I do believe that there are life lessons to be learned by picking up a shovel and a few packs of seeds -  lessons about hard work, preparation, patience, care, and finally, harvest. There are lessons, there is satisfaction, and yes, there is comfort. 

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit