“I dig old books.” ™
Quotations: Gardening, Farming, Dirt, Soil
Welcome to my page of gardening quotations, which has evolved over the years to include more and more quotes supporting the "grow food, not lawns" philosophy, as well as farming and the importance of soil and dirt. Thanks to Google Books, I've been able to spend many delightful hours harvesting excerpts from long-forgotten old books, back when gardening and farming were a part of daily life for many people, much more than they are now to us city folk. The amazing wisdom and language from centuries past makes my soul bloom into smiles, so I hope you too enjoy these quotes ranging from the time-honored to the freshly new. And special thanks to Michael P. Garofalo of gardendigest.com for letting me borrow a few of his great quotes as well.
Garden writing is often very tame, a real waste when you think how opinionated, inquisitive, irreverent and lascivious gardeners themselves tend to be. Nobody talks much about the muscular limbs, dark, swollen buds, strip-tease trees and unholy beauty that have made us all slaves of the Goddess Flora. ~Ketzel Levine's talkingplants.com
On every stem, on every leaf,... and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897 (Thanks, Jessica)
No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden. ~Hugh Johnson
His to rejoice with exceeding great joy who plucks the fruit of his planting, but his the divine anointing who watched and waited and toiled and prayed, — and failed, — and can yet be glad. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Wind-Wafted Wild Flowers," in The Open Court, August 1903
With rake and seeds and sower,
And hoe and line and reel,
When the meadows shrill with "peeping"
And the old world wakes from sleeping,
Who wouldn't be a grower
That has any heart to feel?
~Frederick Frye Rockwell, "Invitation," Around the Year in the Garden, 1913
It was such a pleasure to sink one's hands into the warm earth, to feel at one's fingertips the possibilities of the new season. ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
We think that diamonds are very important, gold is very important, all these minerals are very important. We call them precious minerals, but they are all forms of the soil. But that part of this mineral that is on top, like it is the skin of the earth, that is the most precious of the commons. ~Wangari Maathai (1940–2011), Dirt! The Movie, 2009
The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land. ~Abraham Lincoln
From an aunt, long ago: "Death has come for me many times but finds me always in my lovely garden and leaves me there, I think, as an excuse to return." ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
We have descended into the garden and caught three hundred slugs. How I love the mixture of the beautiful and the squalid in gardening. It makes it so lifelike. ~Evelyn Underhill, Letters
Let nature be in your yard. ~Greg Peterson, www.urbanfarm.org [Said during Urban Farm tour, 2014 March 22nd, Phoenix, Arizona.
The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. ~Elizabeth Lawrence
A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself. ~May Sarton
The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard. ~Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
Coffee. Garden. Coffee. Does a good morning need anything else? ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com
Every radish I ever pulled up seemed to have a mortgage attached to it. ~Ed Wynn
A house without a garden or orchard is unfurnished and incomplete. ~A. Bronson Alcott (1799–1888), quoted from louisamayalcott.org
I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day. ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace
Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden.... It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
Despite the gardener's best intentions, Nature will improvise. ~Michael P. Garofalo
Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest. Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts. So long as we are dirty, we are pure. Fondness for the ground comes back to a man after he has run the round of pleasure and business, eaten dirt, and sown wild-oats.... To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch their renewal of life,—this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do.... Let us celebrate the soil. Most men toil that they may own a piece of it; they measure their success in life by their ability to buy it.... Broad acres are a patent of nobility; and no man but feels more of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he can call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep; and that is a very handsome property. ~Charles Dudley Warner, "Preliminary," My Summer in a Garden, 1870
[T]ake thy plastic spade,
It is thy pencil; take thy seeds, thy plants,
They are thy colours; and by these repay
With interest every charm [Nature] lent thy art.
~William Mason, The English Garden: A Poem (Book the First), 1772
[Before the word "plastic" meant the manufactured material that we relate to today, it meant "sculptural." It also means able to be molded or capable of adapting to varying conditions, flexible, etc. The word has been in use since at least the 1600s. Susie I. Tucker, in Protean Shape: A Study in Eighteenth-Century Vocabulary and Usage, writes "It is disconcerting that 'plastic' has ceased to be mainly the property of poets and philosophers, and come into the hands of manufacturers and advertisers, and indeed of all of us for our domestic concerns." Right on, sister!
In order to live off a garden, you practically have to live in it. ~Frank McKinney Hubbard
It pleases me to take amateur photographs of my garden, and it pleases my garden to make my photographs look professional. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. ~Walt Whitman
Creating your own urban farm is as simple as planting your flowerbeds with edibles. ~Greg Peterson, My Ordinary Extraordinary Yard: The Story of the Urban Farm, 2009, www.urbanfarm.org
In the garden I tend to drop my thoughts here and there. To the flowers I whisper the secrets I keep and the hopes I breathe. I know they are there to eavesdrop for the angels. ~Dodinsky, www.dodinsky.com
Gardens always mean something else, man absolutely uses one thing to say another. ~Robert Harbison, Eccentric Spaces, 1977
Gardens... should be like lovely, well-shaped girls: all curves, secret corners, unexpected deviations, seductive surprises and then still more curves. ~H.E. Bates, A Love of Flowers
My garden is my favorite teacher. ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com
Delve in! The year's before us;
Spring's promise fills the air.
Descendants of Antæus,
The brown earth's touch can free us,
Renew us and restore us,
From the hand o' carking care.
~Frederick Frye Rockwell, "Invitation," Around the Year in the Garden, 1913
I never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden. ~Abraham Cowley, The Garden, 1666
One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show
The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world.... It is a pleasure to eat of the fruit of one's toil, if it be nothing more than a head of lettuce or an ear of corn. One cultivates a lawn even with great satisfaction; for there is nothing more beautiful than grass and turf in our latitude.... the world without turf is a dreary desert.... To dig in the mellow soil... is a great thing. One gets strength out of the ground.... There is life in the ground; it goes into the seeds; and it also, when it is stirred up, goes into the man who stirs it. The hot sun on his back as he bends to shovel and hoe, or contemplatively rakes the warm and fragrant loam, is better than much medicine. ~Charles Dudley Warner, "Preliminary," My Summer in a Garden, 1870
Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. ~Douglas William Jerrold, about Australia, A Land of Plenty
I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden. ~John Erskine
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood
He talked and contrived endlessly to the effect that I should understand the land, not as a commodity, an inert fact to be taken for granted, but as an ultimate value, enduring and alive, useful and beautiful and mysterious and formidable and comforting, beneficent and terribly demanding, worthy of the best of a man's attention and care.... he insisted that I learn to do the hand labor that the land required, knowing—and saying again and again—that the ability to do such work is the source of a confidence and an independence of character that can come no other way, not by money, not by education. ~Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound [‘He’ being Berry's father
Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ~Russell Page
The garden is a love song, a duet between a human being and Mother Nature. ~Jeff Cox
It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening. You have got to love your garden whether you like it or not. ~W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman, Garden Rubbish, 1936
In my garden I spend my days; in my library I spend my nights. My interests are divided between my geraniums and my books. With the flower I am in the present; with the book I am in the past. ~Alexander Smith, "Books and Gardens," Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country, 1863
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. ~Cicero
A garden was the primitive prison, till man with Promethean felicity and boldness, luckily sinned himself out of it. ~Charles Lamb, 1830
To this day I cannot see a bright daffodil, a proud gladiola, or a smooth eggplant without thinking of Papa. Like his plants and trees, I grew up as a part of his garden. ~Leo Buscaglia
Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life. ~Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
Everything, from kings to cabbages, needs a root in the soil somewhere. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), Civilization and Health, "Chapter XIV: The Vacation Habit," 1914 #grounding
When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author unknown
No matter where you are you can grow something to eat. Shift your thinking and you'd be surprised at the places your food can be grown! Window sill, fire escape and rooftop gardens have the same potential to provide impressive harvests as backyard gardens, greenhouses and community spaces. ~Greg Peterson, Grow Wherever You Go! Discovering the Place Where Your Garden Lives, 2009, www.urbanfarm.org
When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I know the pleasure of pulling up root vegetables. They are solvable mysteries. ~Novella Carpenter, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
My little bit of earth in the front garden is one of the places that I find my bearings. The rhythm of my day begins with a cup of coffee and a little bit of weeding or dreaming. ~Betsy Cañas Garmon, www.wildthymecreative.com
A rainbow of soil is under our feet;
red as a barn and black as peat.
It's yellow as lemon and white as the snow;
bluish gray. So many colors below.
Hidden in darkness as thick as the night;
The only rainbow that can form without light.
Dig you a pit, or bore you a hole,
you'll find enough colors to well rest your soil.
~Francis D. Hole (1913–2002), "A Rainbow of Soil Words"
Anybody who wants to rule the world should try to rule a garden first. ~Gardening Saying
We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist. ~Wendell Berry
Essential advice for the gardener: grow peas of mind, lettuce be thankful, squash selfishness, turnip to help thy neighbor, and always make thyme for loved ones. ~Author Unknown
Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. ~Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows...
~Rudyard Kipling, "The Glory of the Garden"
Most people who possess anything like an acre, or half of it, contribute weekly to the support of a gentleman known as Jobbing Gardener. You are warned of the danger that he may prove to be Garden Pest no 1. ~C.E. Lucas-Phillips, The New Small Garden
Plants give us oxygen for the lungs and for the soul. ~Terri Guillemets
I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must not write outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924), In the Garden, published posthumously, 1925
I sit in my garden, gazing upon a beauty that cannot gaze upon itself. And I find sufficient purpose for my day. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Can plants be happy? If they get what they need, they thrive — that's what I know. ~Terri Guillemets, "Lessons from Nature to the Human Heart"
An acre of land between the shore and the hills...
A garden I need never go beyond,
Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one
Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun...
~Edward Thomas (1878–1917), "For These"
There is something primal, even sexy about growing asparagus in the garden that is lost to those who are only familiar with the canned variety. During the harvest each spring, it is with joyous anticipation that I visit the garden daily, simply for the satisfaction of finding those tender new shoots reaching up towards the sun. ~Kari Spencer, www.themicrofarmproject.com, quotation from Squidoo article “Garden Tips from The Micro Farm Project: How to Grow Asparagus” (Spears of Joy)
Tomatoes and squash never fail to reach maturity. You can spray them with acid, beat them with sticks and burn them; they love it. ~S.J. Perelman, Acres and Pains, 1951
Work, through the summer golden,
And through the autumn's glow,
Till the months lay down their burden
In the full garden's guerdon,
And earth, once more enfolden,
Sleeps warm beneath the snow.
~Frederick Frye Rockwell, "Invitation," Around the Year in the Garden, 1913
In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. ~Robert Rodale (1930–1990)
We spend our lives hurrying away from the real, as though it were deadly to us. "It must be up there somewhere on the horizon," we think. And all the time it is in the soil, right beneath our feet. ~William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
Life begins the day you start a garden. ~Chinese Proverb
I believe that virtually everyone has the ability to either grow some food at home, or to find an appropriate location to start a garden. I may sound like a kook who plants my landscape with cucumbers instead of carnations, peppers instead of petunias, and fruit trees rather than ficus, but I am convinced that wherever you go, you can grow food! Now is the time for us to join together and plant the seeds that will transform the places in which we live. ~Greg Peterson, Grow Wherever You Go! Discovering the Place Where Your Garden Lives, 2009, www.urbanfarm.org [Here's a great 45-minute video of Greg talking about urban farms: youtube.com/watch?v=_liYW7diA5U
Today I had set aside for spading. Now there is nothing pleasanter than spading when the ground is soft and damp. You turn a spade full and then carefully knock all the lumps to pieces and you go on for hours without thinking about anything. ~John Steinbeck, letter to Kate Beswick
A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often — just to save it from drying out completely. ~Pam Brown
If there was a big gardening convention, and you got up and gave a speech in favor of fast-motion gardening, I bet you would get booed right off the stage. They're just not ready. ~Jack Handey, Deeper Thoughts: All New, All Crispy
How can I stand on the ground every day and not feel its power? How can I live my life stepping on this stuff and not wonder at it? Science says that an acre of soil produces one horsepower every day. But you could pour gasoline all over the ground forever and never see it sprout maple trees. ~William Bryant Logan, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
I appreciate the misunderstanding I have had with Nature over my perennial border. I think it is a flower garden; she thinks it is a meadow lacking grass, and tries to correct the error. ~Sara Stein, My Weeds, 1988
Farming is a profession of hope. ~Brian Brett
It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing. ~Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts, 1981
Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
The boys and girls have some garden work, and watering the flowers was quite an exhilarating pastime to them; and there was threshing out beans with old-fashioned flails in the seed barn, and a good deal of trundling about of little hand-carts, and wheelbarrows adown the alleys in the great vegetable garden, which was laid out in such beds of asparagus and ranks of sweet corn and good things, and cut in two by a broad walk bordered all up and down with sunflowers, that it would have done the soul of Oscar Wilde good to contemplate. ~Amanda B. Harris, "Some Little Shakers," in Young People's New Pictorial Library of Poetry and Prose, 1888
As a gardener, I'm among those who believe that much of the evidence of God's existence has been planted. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
A farm is an irregular patch of nettles bounded by short-term notes, containing a fool and his wife who didn't know enough to stay in the city. ~S.J. Perelman
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
~Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden Thoughts"
The home gardener is part scientist, part artist, part philosopher, part ploughman. ~John R. Whiting
Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. ~Wendell Berry
My rule of green thumb for mulch is to double my initial estimate of bags needed, and add three. Then I'll only be two bags short. ~Author Unknown
We come from the earth.
We return to the earth.
And in between we garden.
Yes, I am positive that one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies, social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a rehabilitation of the work of the fields. ~Charles Wagner
With fronds like you, who needs anemones. ~Gardening Saying
God loved the flowers and invented soil. Man loved the flowers and invented vases. ~Variation of a saying by Jacques Deval (God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.)
The moment that a child can walk,
like that in which it first can talk,
is a precious start of exploration into landscapes of creation.
Walking, walking, walking, walking, walking on the earth.
By sense of touch the feet assess
the nature of the wilderness
of earth beneath;
yet human speech cannot express
what feet can teach.
Walking, walking, walking, walking, walking on the earth.
~Francis D. Hole (1913–2002), "Walking on the Earth"
I saw all the people hustling early in the morning to go into the factories and the stores and the office buildings, to do their job, to get their checks. But ultimately, it's not office buildings or jobs that give us our checks. It's the soil. The soil is what gives us the real income that supports us all. ~Ed Begley, Jr.
I doe hold it, in the Royall ordering of Gardens, there ought to be Gardens, for all the Moneths in the Yeare: In which, severally Things of Beautie, may in then in Season. ~Francis Bacon
Weed it and reap. ~Gardening Saying
I envision a day when every city and town has front and back yards, community gardens and growing spaces, nurtured into life by neighbors who are no longer strangers, but friends who delight in the edible rewards offered from a garden they discovered together. Imagine small strips of land between apartment buildings that have been turned into vegetable gardens, and urban orchards planted at schools and churches to grow food for our communities. The seeds of the urban farming movement already are growing within our reality. ~Greg Peterson, Grow Wherever You Go Discovering the Place Where Your Garden Lives, 2009, www.urbanfarm.org [In or near Phoenix? Take the free Urban Farm tour, info on Greg's website.
When God blesses the harvest, there is enough for the thief as well as the gardener. ~Polish Proverb
There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978)
More grows in the garden than the gardener sows. ~Spanish Proverb
And for our work—though showers
And autumn frosts destroy—
Our greatest pay's not measured
In fruit and flower we've treasured,
But in the golden hours
That brought us health and joy!
~Frederick Frye Rockwell, "Invitation," Around the Year in the Garden, 1913
History, like a vast river, propels logs, vegetation, rafts, and debris; it is full of live and dead things, some destined for resurrection; it mingles many waters and holds in solution invisible substances stolen from distant soils. ~Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors
Nature! The outlines of all things and designs are drawn in Nature, and it is the sweet privilege of Man to divine and fill out these sketches, completing in Art what is begun in Nature. I think I garden more to the eye than to the appetites. ~A. Bronson Alcott, 1846 journal
Often... visible outdoor areas are homogenous, cookie-cutter spaces, where neatly-trimmed grass or a few well-placed flower pots are admired and appreciated by the neighbors. But for some revolutionary gardeners, a feast for the eyes is not enough. They want something edible in return for the hard work, the water and the expense of tending a landscape. These food revolutionaries are maximizing their cultivation area by converting their landscapes, patios, and nearby vacant lots into productive edible gardens. In the quest for more space to grow food, even conventional front lawns are being transformed into maverick, and highly visible, vegetable plots.... the rise of modern vegetable gardeners who are cutting against the grain of current landscape fashion to grow food out in the open once again. ~Kari Spencer, www.themicrofarmproject.com, quotation from Squidoo article “Ground-Breaking: Making the Switch from Lawns to Food”
Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw. ~Henry David Thoreau
Today I think
Only with scents,—scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field...
It is enough
To smell, to crumble the dark earth...
~Edward Thomas (1878–1917), "Digging"
Learn to be an observer in all seasons. Every single day, your garden has something new and wonderful to show you. ~Author Unknown
In making out your garden plan this year you will probably find yourself handicapped by the lack of accurate knowledge about your plants of last year—how much of each thing you used, the dates of the last frost in the spring and the first killing frost in autumn, when the various insect pests appeared, when you made your last sowing for winter vegetables, how long after planting it took the different varieties of vegetables to mature, and a score of other things, all of which you have had to guess at with no degree of certainty. Provide now against next spring. Get a cheap diary and leave it in the pocket of your work clothes or hang it up in the tool shed. In it jot down from time to time the things you particularly want to keep track of. ~Frederick Frye Rockwell, Around the Year in the Garden: A Seasonable Guide and Reminder for Work with Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers, and Under Glass, "February: First Week, Make a Plan Now—And Follow It This Summer: Keep a Garden Diary," 1913
A gardener's best tool is the knowledge from previous seasons. And it can be recorded in a $2 notebook. ~Andy Tomolonis
Bloom where you are planted. ~Author Unknown
And I beseech you, forget not to informe yourselfe as dilligently as may be, in things that belong to Gardening. ~John Evelyn
The Walls enriched with Fruit-trees and faced with a covering of their leafy extensions; I should rather have said hung with different pieces of Nature's noblest Tapestry. ~James Hervey
Early to bed, early to rise;
Work like hell and fertilize.
Flowers grow in inches, but are destroyed by feet. ~Gardening Saying
When the soil disappears, the soul disappears. ~Terri Guillemets
Somebody told me it was frightening how much topsoil we are losing each year, but when I told that story around the campfire, nobody got scared. ~Jack Handey
When overwhelmed and stressed and unable to think,
I go out and garden, it's cheaper than a shrink.
If you've never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Lord, 'tis Thy plenty-dropping hand
That soils my land,
And giv'st me for my bushel sowne
Twice ten for one.
All this, and better, Thou dost send
Me, to this end,
That I should render, for my part,
A thankful heart.
Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed. ~Lewis Gannit
Human vanity can best be served by a reminder that, whatever his accomplishments, his sophistication, his artistic pretension, man owes his very existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil — and the fact that it rains. ~Anonymous, in The Cockle Bur, sometime between 1930 and 1968
Tell me, housewife blithe and fair,
How does your garden grow?
Crisp and green the lettuce there,—
Onions, row by row,—
Radishes beyond compare!
Spring and I with tender care
Watch them well, you know!
~Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron, "April," A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband with Bettina's Best Recipes, 1917
When you have done your best for a flower, and it fails, you have some reason to be aggrieved. ~Frank Swinnerton
Life's a garden — dig it. ~Gardening Saying
The ancient Hebrew association of man with soil is echoed in the Latin name for man, homo, derived from humus, the stuff of life in the soil. This powerful metaphor suggests an early realization of a profound truth that humanity has since disregarded to its own detriment. Since the words "humility" and "humble" also derive from humus, it is rather ironic that we should have assigned our species so arrogant a name as Homo sapiens sapiens ("wise wise man"). It occurs to me, as I ponder our past and future relation to the earth, that we might consider changing our name to a more modest Homo sapiens curans, with the word curans denoting caring or caretaking, as in "curator." ("Teach us to care" was T.S. Eliot's poetic plea.) Of course, we must work to deserve the new name, even as we have not deserved the old one. ~Daniel Hillel, Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil
If you are a gardener, you can always put "Plant Manager" on your résumé. ~Author Unknown
The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not to give the possessor vegetables and fruit (that can be better and cheaper done by the market-gardeners), but to teach him patience and philosophy, and the higher virtues,—hope deferred, and expectations blighted.... The garden thus becomes a moral agent, a test of character, as it was in the beginning. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, "What I Know about Gardening: First Week," 1870
There's a garden where the peppers
Were all growing on the vine,
The tomatoes and the pumpkins
And the string beans, very fine.
Harmony had been so perfect
In this garden where they grew;
And the sunshine and the showers
Came to nourish them, they knew.
Each one praised the others' beauty,
Praised their colors and their shapes,
From the tiny, little onion
To the luscious, purple grapes...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "In the Garden" (1940s)
I love being asked to identify plants, and I don't know which gives me more pleasure: to know what they are or not to know what they are. ~Elizabeth Lawrence (1904–1985), "More Winter Blooms," 1969 February 23rd
We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot. ~Leonardo da Vinci
It's September in my garden. Green beans abound. My mouth waters for the ripening sweet corn. Winter carrots slowly set down their tender roots. A breeze brings the smell of apples. Kale, collards and broccoli unfurl their leafy coats, getting ready for frost. ~Kristina Turner, The Self-Healing Cookbook, 2002, originally published 1987 [a little altered
The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness. ~Dalai Lama
I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating. ~Wendell Berry
Gardening gives one back a sense of proportion about everything — except itself. ~May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep, 1968
Gardening is growing things.... You start in the front with parsley, and lettuce, and onions, and radishes.... Then comes the beets, and the carrots, and the peas, and the bunch beans. The potatoes are over in a field by themselves. Then comes the asparagus, and the celery, and last of all the pole beans, and the butter beans, and the sweet corn. Then you bound your garden on the north and the east with cantelopes and on the south and the west with watermelons. Then you plant sunflowers and hollyhocks in the back corners. Then you pray for the rain to come and if too much comes, you pray for it to stop. It keeps you busy all summer praying and hoeing. ~Virginia Cary Hudson, "Gardening," O Ye Jigs & Juleps!, 1962
It was a perfect day
Remained; the early seeds
All safely sown.
And now, hark at the rain,
Windless and light,
Half a kiss, half a tear,
~Edward Thomas (1878–1917), "Sowing"
Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts. ~Author unknown
Timeliness, which is of importance in achieving success in almost any undertaking, is particularly important in garden operations.... On the other hand, the gardener who imagines that his work can be reduced to a set of rules and formulæ, followed and applied according to special days marked on the calendar, is but preparing himself for a double disappointment. Few things are so certain to be uncertain as the seasons and the weather; and these, rather than a set of dates, even for a single locality, form the signs which the real gardener follows. That is the great trouble with much book and magazine gardening. ~Frederick Frye Rockwell, Around the Year in the Garden: A Seasonable Guide and Reminder for Work with Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers, and Under Glass, "Introduction," 1913
There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. ~Alfred Austin
Once I came in the terms of pots and pans, in the dun-color of soulless moiling.
Now I come in the terms of dahlias, and hepaticas, in a happy garden. My spade chortles, the poppies flaunt their red skirts of abandon.
I hang laughing vines over my garden wall, and have planted a purple grape that climbs up and kisses the red-cheeked cherries in my trees.
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "At the Roots of Grasses: XIII," At the Roots of Grasses, 1923
Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
I have never read of any Roman supper that seemed to me equal to a dinner of my own vegetables; when everything on the table is the product of my own labor.... It is strange what a taste you suddenly have for things you never liked before. The squash has always been to me a dish of contempt; but I eat it now as if it were my best friend. I never cared for the beet or the bean; but I fancy now that I could eat them all, tops and all, so completely have they been transformed by the soil in which they grew. I think the squash is less squashy, and the beet has a deeper hue of rose, for my care of them. ~Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, "What I Know about Gardening: Tenth Week," 1870
The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all. ~Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America
A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the earth's hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness. ~Wallace H. Fuller, Soils of the Desert Southwest, 1975
Gardeners learn by trowel and error. ~Gardening Saying
The term Garden, which originally implied nothing more than a kitchen-garden or orchard, is, according to its modern acceptation, a plot or piece of ground properly laid out, cultivated, and embellished with a variety of plants, flowers, fruits, &c. Hence, gardening, or horticulture, taken in the most enlarged sense, signified whatever contributes to adorn the scenes of nature, and render them delightful. Gardens are usually distinguished into flower-garden, fruit-garden and kitchen-garden. ~Rural Recreations; or the Gardener's Instructor by a Society of Practical Gardeners, 1802
He may snatch wildness from the woods, shrewdness from the market-place; but for subtlety of thought, for strong sense, grace of diction, for ideas, he best betakes himself to conversation with orchards... ~A. Bronson Alcott, 1862 journal
Angels are spirits of the soul for humans, and spirits of the soil in gardens. ~Terri Guillemets, "Zucchini and soil and butterflies," 1993
Fingers now scented with sage and rosemary, a kneeling gardener is lost in savory memories. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a gardener is to think you're in charge. ~Janet Gillespie
The ancient Chinese regarded earthworms as "angels of the earth." Aristotle considered worms as "intestines of the earth." ~Lee Ann Gillen, "An Historical Perspective of Soil Microbiology"
Charles Robert Darwin, the great English scientist, after years of patient study, published a book of 236 pages dealing exclusively with earthworms. In this volume, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, he makes it clear that Nature apparently created the earthworm to be an improver of the soil and to aid the growth of plants. Indeed, he goes so far as to make this statement: "Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible." ~John Edwin Hogg, "Harnessing Earthworms," Nature Magazine, January 1941 [I've quoted in this format because I cannot find the statement in Darwin's works. However, the 1881 publication referenced is real, and in fact was the last book Darwin published before his death in 1882.
The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organised creatures. ~Charles Darwin, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observation on their Habits, 1881
I must own I had always looked on worms as amongst the most helpless and unintelligent members of the creation; and am amazed to find that they have a domestic life and public duties! ~Joseph Dalton Hooker, letter to Charles Darwin, 1881 [thanking him for his book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms
For worms, is soil just another day at the office? ~Terri Guillemets
The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow. ~Author unknown
When a front yard is converted to a vegetable garden, growing food goes public! Gardens that are visible from the street naturally pique the interest of the community. The result can be that the gardener... reconnects with their food, and also forges new connections with their neighbors. Some residents may be surprised, even resistant to the idea of a garden that is cultivated out in the open. But, as flowers bloom and veggies begin to form, attracting birds, bees and butterflies, as well as curious neighbors, a tended garden converts a sterile space into a living sanctuary. Most neighbors will grow to appreciate its beauty. A few community members may even jump on board, adding a few edible plants to their own landscapes. ~Kari Spencer, www.themicrofarmproject.com, quotation from Squidoo article “Ground-Breaking: Making the Switch from Lawns to Food”
Whoever makes a garden
Has never worked alone;
the rain has always found it,
The sun has always known;
The wind has blown across it
And helped to scatter seeds;
Whoever makes a garden
Has all the help he needs.
Whoever makes a garden
Has oh so many friends:
The glory of the morning,
The dew when daylight ends,
And rain and wind and sunshine
And dew and fertile sod,
For he who makes a garden
Works hand in hand with God.
If I finish my day with no garden dirt under my fingernails and nothing new learned, it is a day wasted! ~Valerie Clague
Laying out grounds... may be considered as a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting.... it is to assist Nature in moving the affections... the affections of those who have the deepest perception of the beauty of Nature... ~William Wordsworth, letter to George Beaumont, 1805 October 17th [Author trivia: Wordsworth was brilliant at landscape gardening!
[T]he creation of the Landscape-Garden offered to the true Muse the most magnificent of opportunities. Here was, indeed, the fairest field for the display of invention, or imagination, in the endless combining of forms of novel Beauty; the elements which should enter into combination being, at all times, and by a vast superiority, the most glorious which the earth could afford. In the multiform of the tree, and in the multicolor of the flower, he recognized the most direct and the most energetic effort of Nature at physical Beauty. And in the direction or concentration of this effort, or, still more properly, in its adaption to the eyes which were to behold it upon earth, he perceived that he should be employing the best means — laboring to the greatest advantage — in the fulfilment of his destiny as Poet. ~Edgar Allan Poe, "The Landscape-Garden," 1842 ['He' being Mr. Ellison
Nothing is more completely the child of Art than a Garden. ~Walter Scott
A fine open-air colour was in their faces; they had that confident manner which great physical strength imparts, and that air of conscious pride which is born in lords of the soil. ~Amelia E. Huddleston Barr, A Rose of a Hundred Leaves: A Love Story, 1891
Did you ever see a scarecrow
Standing, ragged and forlorn,
Guarding crops that soon are coming
Through the earth, as though just born?
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The Scarecrow" (1940s)
Exclusiveness in a garden is a mistake as great as it is in society. ~Alfred Austin
[T]he final step in becoming an urban farmer is the naming of your farm, even if your name is simply for the few pots on your front porch. Creating your name helps to build a sense of place within your neighborhood as well as pride in your accomplishments. By naming your farm you give it a life of its own. Be creative and come up with a name that inspires and makes people smile, like my friend Laura's "Wish We Had Acres," the Fairy Tale inspired "Jack's Bean Stalk" or my "Urban Farm." ~Greg Peterson, My Ordinary Extraordinary Yard: The Story of the Urban Farm, 2009, www.urbanfarm.org
An optimistic gardener is one who believes that whatever goes down must come up. ~Leslie Hall
And if Mrs. Harris and myself are lucky enough to be in Heaven at the same time, I know what we can do when things get dull. We can give a garden party. I sure hope God didn't forget to plant a garden in Heaven. ~Virginia Cary Hudson, "Gardening," O Ye Jigs & Juleps!, 1962
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land's inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery. ~Wendell Berry
I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation. ~Phyllis Theroux
When one of my plants dies, I die a little inside too. ~Terri Guillemets
I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
Be it deep or shallow, red or black, sand or clay, the soil is the link between the rock core of the earth and the living things on its surface. It is the foothold for the plants we grow. Therein lies the main reason for our interest in soils. ~Roy Simonson, USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, 1957
Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds,
The harvest can be either flowers or weeds.
O ye Sun and Moon, oh ye beans and roses, oh ye jigs and juleps, Bless ye the Lord, Praise Him and Magnify Him Forever. Amen. ~Virginia Cary Hudson, "Gardening," O Ye Jigs & Juleps!, 1962
One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds. ~Dan Bennett
A farm includes the passion of the farmer's heart, the interest of the farm's customers, the biological activity in the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm — it's everything touching, emanating from, and supplying that piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism. The tragedy of our time is that cultural philosophies and market realities are squeezing life's vitality out of most farms. ~Joel Salatin
Old gardeners never die, they just run out of thyme. ~Gardening Saying
By the time one is eighty, it is said, there is no longer a tug of war in the garden with the May flowers hauling like mad against the claims of the other months. All is at last in balance and all is serene. The gardener is usually dead, of course. ~Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman, 1981
Acknowledgment: Thank you to Michael P. Garofalo of gardendigest.com for sharing some of these quotations!
Related Quotations: Environment, Food, Nature, Labor, Weather, Flowers, Weeds, Health, Trees, Water, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Body, Light, Sky, Birds, Insects, Butterflies, Ladybugs, Animals, Community