When technology meets gardening

I’m typing this from our garden. Yes, it’s much too late (into the season), and in general – I’m finally embracing working outside on regular basis. What took so long?

I’ve lived in this house for 11 years, and the garden was in ‘workable’ state for about 9 years (it was a noisy, dusty construction site at the start). So for nearly a decade I’ve trimmed, planted, harvested, watered, staked, weeded, etc – but except the occasional laptop on the deck, or a tablet in the lounger – haven’t developed a habit of doing more work outside. Not a regular habit for any of my work tasks – web design, email management, client phoners, slack, basecamp, QA, development, etc. Again, what took so long?

Simple reason – and you’re gonna laugh. In my mind, the garden wasn’t “ready” to be used as an office substitute. Even though I’ve been a strong supporter of remote work for years – because I always putter around in the soil and flowerbeds, I kept seeing our garden as ‘incomplete’, even though it was perfectly fine for a while now. So again, I ask – what took so long?

I’m going somewhere with this – and it relates to gardening as much as it does to what I do 9-5, technology adoption, digital workflows, client services, technology education, online operations. “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. To me, the garden is always going to be incomplete, a work in progress – but I am going to spend a lot more time in it as a non-gardener – no weeding or planting or harvesting, or checking on flowerbeds.

And I’m going to do that, partly because it’s a beautiful Friday in June, and partly because I’ve spent the last 5 minutes watching hummingbirds feed at our honeysuckle… Where was I?…

We keep creating habits and comfort zones for ourselves, and some of those habits need to be changed or terminated from time to time. And because so many tools on the web are designed with convenience and simplicity in mind – some of those habits are incredibly hard to break. Look around – technology is an enabler for simplicity, not quality. If you or your brands (or teams, or digital tools) fall into the traps of what’s easy and convenient, you will most likely miss out on bigger opportunities because they looked more complicated at the time. That’s a huge downside to always chasing convenience or simplicity. Look deeper. Think long-term. Next season.

Similar with gardening – once you know your soil type, moisture levels, sun levels, and average seasonal patterns of rains, winds – it becomes a formulaic puzzle – plant it, water it, watch it bear fruit. Some plants will work just about anywhere, others need a little love. Stay within your growing zone, and you cannot fail with a garden. Why bother going out of your way to plant something like a quince in Ontario’s Zone 3 (I’ve always loved quince trees, ever since childhood, and our first one – in Canada – only lasted a few years before freezing during a particularly brutal winter; we did get some fruit for 2 seasons, but after the tree got frostbitten, it was gone within a few months). So I bought another one, and found a better spot for it. More sun, better drainage, and definitely better winter protection. So far so good. Four years in, two of them – with fruit. Quince doesn’t belong in this climate, heck, many of you will probably need to look up what it is. But to me – it’s something a bit more challenging, with a bit more reward. It can work – just needs a focused effort, and a different approach.

For years I’ve been moving back and forth between the world of technology, code, design, rules, algorithms – and the world of gardening, chaos, rough weather, too much sun, too much water, too many cherries (actually no, we’ve never had too many cherries in Canada – that’s another childhood memory from Tashkent).

The reality of course is somewhere in the middle. Technology world still has a lot of unknowns, and changing goal posts, and bad players; and gardening world – has a lot more structure and formulas than you think. Being comfortable in both environments helps me get stuff done faster, anticipate issues, and be proactive – where many others get trapped – either with bad technology habits, or with sour apples.

So I’m going to keep digging in this direction. There must be a word for it that combines the precision of technology and controlled chaos of gardening. Knowing when to expect strict code and formulas, and when to safely introduce a bit of chaos and true creativity into your digital operations – is the million dollar question here. And for the last couple of years I’ve seen companies that are struggling with that balance. Maybe we should talk and I’ll get to inject some gardening techniques into your digital operations?

I’m absolutely serious here – this makes sense to me. More awkward gardening analogies to come soon, I’m sure. Enjoy your Friday.