Thursday, May 28, 2009

For a Three-Dollar Plant, Dig a Five-Dollar Hole

I've just come in from working in a community garden, the George Washington Bicentennial Garden, here in New Vernon, New Jersey. My back aches from leaning over to yank out those troublesome weeds and from fighting the dandelion fluff. My hands are a little tired from pruning back a lot of the dead wood in the cotoneaster which now looks sprightly and fresh hanging over the wall after the tough treatment.

Frequently when gardening I think of the parallels between garden work and writing. When you start a new garden you create a design or plan including the elements that are going to make the garden blossom well, just as in starting a book manuscript the author builds an outline. The gardener researches seed, plant material, its colors and growth height, type of sun/shade needs and other details in the garden design. The writer researches setting, designs plot lines, builds character profiles, and develops an outline.

After planning, the gardener prepares the all-important soil and digs the holes. An old New England saying of my father's is "When you plant a three-dollar plant, dig a five-dollar hole." Careful preparation pays off.

Then with the good luck of adequate sun and rain, the garden grows...and blooms. But it only continues to bloom well, as the manuscript in progress improves, with the hard work of weeding and pruning and revising - yanking out those troublesome weeds and the unnecessary parts of the plot or characters that were not moving the story, and pruning out the dead wood and cutting the fluff and deleting the extra scenes and verbiage that weighed down the text.

After digging that five-dollar hole, the gardener continues to fertilize and water the garden as the writer continues to polish her manuscript.


  1. Yes, writing is liking gardening. So is fishing.

  2. Your metaphor is a great one for this time of the year. I have just finished discarding (giving away) six hosta that were crowding out more desirable plants. It's like getting rid of adverbs so the eye can focus on strong verbs.

  3. And I've got to buy more mulch to keep the darn weeds from sprouting up! After that, I'll get back to work on my MG, fattening up here, trimming away there...

  4. I find it interesting that so many of us are also gardeners. Coincidence?

    p.s. Gale: If you have any more hostas to give away, I'm looking for some. I'm dividing tall white and pink phlox if you want any in trade. :-)

  5. I hate gardening!

    Will I be voted off the island?

  6. Well, there goes my blog post this month! lol. Great post Eileen. I've been FORCED to become a gardener :) it came with the house but I am always amazed a how many ideas flow through my head as I'm weeding. Very therapeutic!