My dream garden is one where the sun shines every day but the plants get ample water. It is one where seeds germinate and reach maturity unmolested. It is a place for quiet meditation, where the birds, insects, and other wildlife co-exist peacefully. This garden produces enough cutting flowers to keep one or two vases in my home filled year-round; and it produces fruits, greens and herbs enough for my family and neighbors. Then I wake up.

In my real-world garden I don’t have enough water for roses (the deer would eat them anyway), enough heat for melons, or enough shade for rhododendrons. Whenever I directly sow seeds, 9 out of 10 are food for the gold finches, sparrows and quails. The gophers seem to like garlic even more than I do. And the sound of sirens and gunshots are not uncommon. But I love it anyway. Just being outside, moving, and breathing the crisp winter air is pure joy for me.

Reality and failures have taught me valuable lessons, and the garden continues to teach. Being mindful and taking notes has rewarded me with local garden wisdom that could never come from books or the web. Exactly 18 years ago I wrote about a relatively new climate phenomenon involving an increase of ocean temperatures in equatorial Pacific waters. Well guess what; here we go again! What will this winter bring? Will the weather be mild? Will my cover crops succeed?

If you are like me, it helps to share your experiences with others, and the staff at Berkeley Hort is only too happy to commiserate with you on nearly any garden issue. Keep in mind that as gardeners we need to remember the old adage, “the best we can hope for is to have the serenity to accept things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Now get out there and get dirty!