Do You Really Need a Green Thumb to Grow Food?

“I’ll never be a gardener. I just have no interest in it and I kill everything I grow. I definitely have a black thumb”

Do you know who said that? I did.

Yup, over a decade ago. If you had asked me, I would have adamantly sworn that I was not talented enough to be a gardener. It just wasn’t in me! I did not have a green thumb!

So, do you feel like you have a green thumb?

It’s interesting. Have you noticed how there seem to be two camps of people? I think that we can all easily self-identify ourselves as either a person with a green thumb or one without.

But, is that really all there is? Are those really the only options?

Perfection is Not Required for Gardening

I’ve long noticed an epidemic of perceived perfectionism in the gardening community. Somewhere along the way, some rigid rules came into play. Those rules insist that if you have failed once (or, heaven forbid – more than once!), you positively are not a gardener and you absolutely have a black thumb. Case closed; don’t question the system!

But, wouldn’t that be like saying that a writer never has to use the backspace button? That a contractor never has to redo his measurements or recut a board? Or that a gymnast never falls? That an artist turns out gold every time their brush touches the canvas?

The Truth About Green Thumbs

We don’t expect others to be perfect in their craft -- whether it’s their job or a hobby. Yet, in the gardening community, we often seem to just accept that you either are or you aren’t. Why do we expect ourselves to be either intrinsically good or bad at gardening with zero space for improvement? I think we too often forget that we must learn how to garden.

Green thumbs are not born. They are stained green through hours and hours spent in the garden.

Kaylee Vaughn, rooted revival

The reality of gardening is that you can’t be perfect at it. You will fail. Your plants will die. You will experience losses, diseases, pests, and many other calamities.

Nature makes us face the uncomfortable truth that failure is just as normal as success. And, in a world that continually pushes us to be Pinterest-perfect in every aspect of our lives, this can actually be a relief. We should all have places where we can fail… and then just keep going anyways. Which is exactly what green thumbs are made of.

Failure is 100% guaranteed in gardening. But it’s what we do next that determines the color of our thumbs.

Of course, it can be hard to fail at something! Especially when it’s something that we really care about. I get it! I rely on my garden for a large part of our daily food supply. If I mess it up, if it dies, if I get behind, if it doesn’t ripen in time… that’s a big hit. It means that we will go without that item for at least a year. It’s a lot of pressure and I struggle with it constantly. But learning how to fail at gardening has made me a more resilient person. It’s taught me to be more creative. And most importantly, it’s taught me that failure is no reason to stop!

So, if you are worried about the color of your thumb, don’t despair. If you killed a plant or two (or 12!), cut yourself some slack! Gardening is an art as much as it is a science. And it takes time and practice to become an artist! Instead of perfection, focus on the process and what you are learning, enjoying and experiencing along the way!

Sure-Fire Ways to Get a Greener Thumb

  1. Have a safety net: A safety net is essential for gardeners – especially new ones! This is why Planted Places is designed to help you learn how to garden instead of just sending you plants and letting you figure it out on your own! So be sure to use the resources, videos, training, and support groups that are available to you. Ask questions, share your wins and losses and we will all be able to learn together.
  2. Think big picture: It’s easy to get lost in the details. I have some gardening clients who will obsess over a few mildew-spotted leaves while bemoaning that their garden is a disaster. Yet when I look at it, I see a thriving gorgeous garden! It’s human nature to see the bad before the good. And it’s especially easy to do in gardening! So, whenever you find yourself hyper-focusing on the negatives, try to zoom out and view all the good! Remember how far you’ve come, how much you’ve already harvested, and how beautiful that garden really is!
  3. Just keep planting! Remember Dory from the Disney movie Finding Nemo? She said that “when life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming!” And, just like Dory, when we get to our breaking point and want to quit, we are going to “just keep planting”! That’s the surest way to develop a green thumb!
  4. Try gardening with Planted Places. We send you everything you need to grow herbs and leafy greens: organically grown seedlings, microgreen seeds, soil, fertilizer and tools. Plus, we provide detailed and easy instructions on how to grow your plants.