Marion Owen

Courtesy of MARION OWEN

Fall is in the air. How does that make you feel, angry or joyful? Pessimistic or hopeful? It might be time for an attitude check.

 Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

What is your attitude —right now, at this moment — toward your spouse? Your kids? Your job? Your garden? Toward life in general? Are you feeling…

Like a victim or a victor?

Ungrateful or appreciative?

Bitter or tender?

Angry or joyful?

Betrayed or beloved?

Critical or congratulatory?

Negative or positive?

Pessimistic or hopeful?

Resentful or content?

Since gardening is generally the focus of this column, you may be wondering where I am going with all this, and here it is — I am simply nudging you toward some self-awareness, through the guise of gardening.

I realize you may already have a general sense of the attitudes you are carrying, but maybe in the busy-ness of life, you just needed a moment to stop, smell the roses, and reflect on your current state of mind. Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, calls this an “attitude check.”

It’s important to become aware of your attitude because (whether you like it or not) it sets an atmosphere that affects how you perceive others and how others perceive you. And the scary truth is, says Chapman, we’re often unaware of the vibes we are sending out.

Using garden examples, let’s look at the exercise above.

When you see a forest of weeds growing around your broccoli plants do you feel like a victim of circumstances or a victor because you’re going to POUNCE on those weeds the next chance you get?

If the rhubarb you transplanted this spring only produced a few stalks do you feel pessimistic that you’ll never be able to grow decent rhubarb or hopeful that you’ll learn something from the experience and do better next year? 

Look through the list and apply the questions to other aspects of your life. Perhaps print out a copy of the list of descriptors and see how you do.

Then, be brutally honest with yourself. If in the process you identified primarily negative characteristics, Chapman suggests that maybe it’s time to “Own the negative vibes you are sending out and make an attitude adjustment.”

Again, being brutally honest, do you enjoy being around critical, bitter, angry, pessimistic, resentful people? Well, most people don’t. So, if you are that person, then you are probably not sensing positive attitudes from others toward you because it’s hard to be around negative people.

On the flip side, if you exude a positive, hopeful, energetic, joyful, appreciative, or victorious attitude, you will most likely feel others drawn to you.

Your attitude, for better or worse, says Dr. Chapman, affect all your relationships: With your family, your friends, your garden. 

For example, if you have dozens of houseplants but resent watering them to the point where they looked haggard and neglected, then

A. Get rid of the plants

B. Assign the task of watering to someone else, or

C. Change your attitude

People pick up on vibes, negative or positive. Plants and animals do, too.

On the other hand, if your lawn is neatly kempt, your flowers tended with care, then anyone seeing your garden will sense peace, calmness, and love. 

Why not take a moment each day (more often, if necessary) and check your attitude? Make positive adjustments when you find negativity settling in. “If you do,” Chapman adds, “you may just find that others have a better attitude toward you as well.”

Late summer gardening: The partial to-do list

1. Prepare beds for planting spring bulbs, garlic

2. Raise the mower blade so the grass grows longer

3. Harvest what you planted in spring. Eat, put it up or give it away

4. Add organics to your soil. “Organics work,” says Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels, “because the soil food web, and ultimately the microbes plants attract to their roots, eat these organics and hold the nutrients in them. When they die, these are released and become available to plants.

Herein is the problem, he says. “It takes time for the soil’s food web to break the organic material down and incorporate it. It also presents the solution: Put organics into your system now, so that by the time spring comes along there will be plenty of goodies for your plants.

Jeff covers the whole process in his book, “Teaming With Nutrients: The Organic Growers Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrients.” Including what happens in the soil during winter.

“Yes, there is microbial activity all winter long. And you will get a bit of a head start on winter by doing the work now.” Best of all, there isn’t much work either. You don’t have to mix everything into the root zone per se. “Just lay them down on the surface,” encourages Jeff. “The soil food web does the work and will bring it down to where it is ultimately used by plants.”

Would that be a negative or positive attitude for the end of the growing season?

What do you think? Send me an email to:



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