Kaizen is a word that has one meaning in the dictionary sense and a wholly different meaning in the popular mind. The dictionary definition is “change for the better”, but over time, this word has morphed through its adaptation both as a business philosophy and a motivational concept into something more akin to “constant, incremental improvement” – that we should seek to do each and every thing we do, no matter how small or great, a little better than we did the day before. The philosophy that has grown up around kaizen doesn’t contemplate ever actually reaching perfection, only continually striving to be closer to it. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a fantastic documentary that displays the heart of kaizen.
Gardens are a great place to embrace the practice of kaizen as they will enthusiastically share with us laundry lists of ways that we could plan, execute, research or just plain do better each day, week, month and year. And luckily we can keep garden logs (or journals) to make note of all of those over and under-estimates, the good ideas and the bad, the lucky guesses and unlucky ones, and of course, how much produce was grown in the garden during the year.
Gardens and gardeners are both works in progress, but it is the gardener that must implement the incremental improvements. Noting in my log that my cilantro and spinach bolted this year during the week I was in DC this May, I can plan to harvest a couple of weeks earlier next year and keep more of my spring harvest. Garden logs are also helpful to review in fall/winter when planning the following year’s garden. What varieties did well and which did not? Was one variety slower to bolt?
Approaching our gardens with the philosophy of kaizen, not always getting it right but always improving and logging on a regular basis what we see happening in the garden is less discouraging when things don’t work out as envisioned than “anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time” for new growers.
Here’s to always growing!