5 Things Gardening Taught Me About Writing

Diane Callahan
15 min readJun 4
5 Things Gardening Taught Me About Writing over pictures of flowers and tomatoes

When I was younger, I had this vision of a glorious Eden in my own backyard, with vegetables flourishing and flowers blossoming all around. I’d stand amongst the rows of plants in a blue lace dress with a straw sun hat, looking like a picture out of a magazine. I dreamed of unlocking another facet of myself — a version of me that is a gardener who loves the soil beneath her fingernails and the sunlight on her back.

From left to right: dahlias, morning glory (blue picotee), zinnia

The dream garden I’d always imagined as a child brimmed with dahlias, marigolds, morning glories, and forget-me-nots. I would pick perfect peppers, tomatoes, and beans, breathe in the scene of fragrant herbs and sweet lavender. Most importantly, there would be a pumpkin patch.

From left to right: Big Kahuna green beans, Connecticut field pumpkins, California Wonder green peppers

Last year, I finally had the backyard space to make that dream a reality. And since I’m pathologically incapable of half-assing anything, my first foray into gardening contained all those plants and more: zinnias, watermelon, foxglove, wildflowers, daisies, strawberries, basil, and rosemary.

From left to right: Chinese forget-me-nots, strawberries (not from seed), pot marigold from a wildflower seed mix

As I watched my plants grow from indoor seedlings to a veritable jungle of thriving potted monstrosities, I realized the extent of my insanity. I convinced myself that this endeavor was partially meant to be research for my novel, given that my protagonist gardens as a hobby. Plus, as an editor for Story Garden Publishing, it made sense to lean into the metaphor.

The right and left sides of the back patio, featuring numerous pepper and tomato plants

One needs no excuse to garden, of course. But as I looked back at all my plant photos from April to October of 2022, I witnessed how much gardening and writing have in common. They’re both contemplative pursuits that require long-term passion and persistence.