It seems like I've been gardening most of my life. My mother was a keen gardener and my sister has a magnificent garden in the Blue Mountains so maybe the love of it is in my bones. I know people who have been healed by gardening. A couple of people I know who were suffering depression, took up gardening, got their hands dirty, created wonderful gardens and remade themselves in the process of doing it. There is something about putting your hands into the soil that heals. It brings you back to earth - literally- and puts many things in perspective.
Gardening not only helps you produce organic food for the table, it also helps you slow down. Gardening is about time, the slowness of it and how using that time in a meaningful and productive way can make you healthier, both physically and mentally. Your garden will not allow you to rush - there is a time for planning and a natural requirement for preparation and attention to detail. Becoming a steward in your garden helps you become a providore in your own kitchen. With careful planning you can provide food you often cannot buy in the supermarket and even if it's the same, your garden produce will be much fresher that anything you can buy. You have never really tasted a potato until you taste a new potato, dug that afternoon and steamed with butter and parsley. Certain foods taste better when they're grown out the back.
But gardening isn't just about slowing down, freshness and taste, it's also a life skill - one of those skills our ancestors took seriously because it helped them survive. And now here we are with the luxurious option of choosing whether to produce food in our backyard or whether to buy it. Of course, some of us don't have that luxurious option - it's been taken away by illness, lack of time or no land, but those of us who have that choice should grab it with both hands and teach our children as well.
I took a stroll through our garden early yesterday morning and although there are still a few empty spaces, it's lush and plentiful and is starting to fill with ripe vegetables and fruit just waiting to be picked. I took these photos for you to see what is growing now.
This is Martha peeking out behind the sweet potato vine.
Sweet potatoes popping out of the soil ready to be dug up.
Not everything is bright and rosy. Here we have two tomatoes with caterpillars in them. They were picked for the chooks to eat.
There is always room for a touch of whimsy in any garden. Once you have the plants in, add trellises, climbing frames and bits and pieces to create interest. And even if no bird uses this little house, it makes me smile every time I look at it.
I hope your gardening, or your planning is coming along well. Take your time to make sure you're planting the right things for your climate, and when you know what to plant, make sure you have the right varities. This is especially necessary if you have a short growing season because you only have one chance at a crop. If this is your first year in the garden, take it slow, don't over do it and be patient. Take the time to discover your soil and backyard. Listen to the birds, look at the insects and come to know them - they are not all bad and can be your enemy or your friend. When you're in the garden, be there, both physically and mentally. Don't think of other things or what you'll be doing later. There is a lot to learn in any garden. I have been gardening for about 40 years and I'm still learning, discovering and being amazed at how complex, yet simple, our natural systems are. If you're lucky, you'll harvest not only healthy vegetables and fruits, you'll grow in confidence, increase your skills and blossom in spirit.