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21 September 2011

Gardening is more than the vegetables


When Hanno removed the fence from the front of our kitchen garden it created space for a seat looking into the garden. Yesterday I showed you the seat we placed there, a recreated wonder of wood and steel, now sitting under the elder tree, overlooking the greenery and the chicken coop beyond. What a grand spot to sit and think about the harvests to come and future gardens, or to just rest awhile. Every garden needs such a place, every one of us deserve one.

 The latest crop of potatoes is breaking through the soil.

Corn at both ends. Some almost ready to harvest, some just planted. There are also Daikon radish, heirloom tomatoes and lettuce - again, some ready, some just planted.

Gardening is not only about the work involved, it's about reconnecting with the earth and touching things that are natural and honest. It's about renewal and recovery.  Ask any gardener how they feel after they spend time in their garden and although many will tell you they're tired, many more will say they feel relaxed and energised.  You can discover your creative self in a garden, and given half a chance, gardens have the power to heal jagged nerves and soothe troubled minds. What better place to breathe deeply and let go of your stresses - it's all fresh air, sunshine, seasonal smells, migrating birds or visiting local ones, bees buzzing, the sounds of your neighbourhood, and you.

 Portuguese cabbage is flowering. Soon we'll harvest the seeds for next year.


Here we have Daikon that is flowering much too early, before the radishes are long enough. We won't collect this seed.

Never go into a garden and expect perfection. It's probably there at various times but you'll more likely encounter spent leaves, weeds, empty spaces and overgrowth. But keep looking because you'll also find seeds germinating, flowers half open, bees collecting pollen, wasps looking for water, vegetables growing to plump maturity and vines twirling and snaking along a fence. Take some time to sit and look around. In our garden there is a distinct feeling of abundance and growth, and when you stop and take time to really look, even when nothing is happening, everything is.

This corn will probably be ready to pick next week.

When something is harvested, we used that space again, straight away, with followup seedings.

Our garden is a productive kitchen patch, not a show garden. There are plants ready for harvest and those just planted, follow up seedings go in whenever plants are past their prime, it changes constantly, it keeps delivering its promise over and over again. There are weeds - chickweed grows wild here, and will do until we mulch properly. That's fine with us. We don't mind the weeds. They'll be removed when we have the time, now there is other work to do - work that will help boost production and keep the vegetables growing. The weeds will wait till we have time for them.



I have been a vegetable gardener for more than 30 years and I am thankful that my life has moved in ways that allowed me to spend time in many productive vegetable gardens. Sometimes I wish I was a novice again - taking those first steps towards organic gardening, remembering plant names and the conditions they need. They were exciting days, when I realised that the work carried out each day sowing, planting, clipping, mulching and watering would result in harvests fit for a king's table. But there were also days when just being in the garden was enough. Gardening never gets old and boring, it gets better the more you know. If you're at that first step stage, I envy you. The wonderful world of microbes, insects, flowers, plants, seeds and the freshest of vegetables is at your finger tips.


When you look around a garden, even the most humble like ours here, you see the birds flying through, bees dipping into flower heads, clothes drying on the line, a cat asleep on the straw mulch and vegetables waiting to be picked, you feel that anything is possible. And maybe, here in the garden, it is.


29 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post. Everything is possible in the garden indeed. I had the pleasure today of seeing two pumpkins, fat and orange, getting ready for the picking. I cut the last sweet peas for the kitchen table, and a rose for the bud vase...around me a splendid sunset was starting, and a thrush was improvising his tune in the apple tree. Aren't we blessed?

    AM of the Bread

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  2. Rhonda - I'm a long-time reader and sorry that I don't comment much. I really enjoyed this post. As a long-time gardener I echo the sentiment about work in a garden resulting in a wonderful harvest, not only of good wholesome food, but positive energy for the gardener. No matter how much effort I give to the gardens, no matter those days I overtax myself, the gardens (flower and vegetable) always (overt or subtle) give more than they get. I hope I'll be lucky enough to be able to be hale and healthy enough to garden up until the very end.

    That said, I have a question for you. I, like you, have a lot of posts and stakes in my gardens. Even if nothing needs staking, I always put a few here and there. I found that birds like to perch, get an overview of the bug situation, then hunt. But you have little overturned flower pots on yours. Does that discourage birds from perching? Or do they serve some other function?

    Thanks for keeping up your blog. Your outlook is just so darn sensible! LOL

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  3. Just saying hello from Amish country. Richard

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  4. Hello Annmarie, Kris and Richard!

    Kris, I meant to add the reason for the pots in the post, but forgot. It's one of the most often asked questions here. Originally, we used them as a safety precaution to stop us taking out an eye on a stake or cane poking out of the ground, particularly the lowers ones that we bend over when planting. After using them for 20 years though, I now put them around because I love the look of them. Birds love them. The smaller birds sit on them and the willy wagtails often look into the pot to see if there are spiders in there.

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  5. What a beautiful post, Rhonda. I spent Sunday morning in the garden with one of my children, planting a couple of cherry trees and putting down newspaper and manure for some no-dig beds of veggies. I've also started repairing the chook run so we can get some new chicks soon.
    I find that whatever I put into my garden, it gives back multiplied. As you say, it's not just food you are getting. It really can lift your spirits and I think it really is nature's first medecine for what ails us, be it physical,mental or spiritual.
    Your post has made me appreciate that gift again.
    Wishing you a beautiful day, Madeleine

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  6. Beautiful post! I love your garden photos - they are so inspiring!

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  7. It really is life-affirming, isn't it?
    Makes the soul sing.
    I want to share my favourite photo of my vegie patch:
    http://poofanditsgone.blogspot.com/2010/12/summer-sunday-6.html

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  8. Yesterday I started to read Michael Pollan's Second Nature, his gardening book. Though I've just begun it it feels quite on a similar wave with this post. I love it when different areas of my life jive like that. It makes me feel I am exactly where I am meant to be.

    "even when nothing is happening, everything is." - That is one of the finest quotes on the wonder of the garden as I've ever heard.

    This morning, as I watered in the sunshine in my barefeet, I told Matt that I just felt something miraculous when I do just that.

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  9. That is a very productive kitchen patch. I have been seriously growing vegetables for 6 months and I love what I've done, even if it looks sparse and badly attacked by bugs. What I love the most is walking around my garden and just taking it all in. It's a particularly wonderful treat if I have been working in it all day, just to look at my labour of love is rewarding. I can hardly wait until I can actually take a basket out and fill it with edible produce. Must show some photos of that day on my blog -when it happens. TFS

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  10. What a beautiful post, Rhonda. You have put into words the wonderful practice of gardening. I love what you said about "when nothing is happening, everything is". Nature is so exciting, and everywhere you look there is something evolving. Gardening is teaching me to be more patient, and you are right about not looking for "perfection" (whatever that is). It's far better and more beautiful to have a productive garden that provides joy and food. Thank you for capturing the true character of all gardeners - beginners and experts, and everyone in between!

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  11. I love my little garden too and see it as an extra room in our home. We have native shrubs to attract and feed the birds, fruit trees in pots, vegies and some flowers. It's also a wonderful place to sit and read or take my knitting....it restores my spirit when I'm down and relaxes my body when I'm tense or sad.
    Hope the rest of your day goes gently, Rhonda and Hanno,
    Love from Sue
    xx

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  12. Thanks once again! I totally get what you are saying! There's always something going on in the garden. It relaxes and refreshes and feeds and heals the soul. I love to watch the miracle of plants sprouting from little tiny seeds. We are not allowed to keep chickens in the city of Toronto, but some people are trying to get that law changed. Your garden pictures are inspiring. I love the addition of the garden bench.

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  13. Hi Rhonda

    I used to think I didn't need a garden, it was too much work and lived in a town house with just a little strip that other people saw but I didn't. Now I live in a house with a lovely garden. I didn't realise how much I had missed it. I've grown tomatoes, beans, rhubarb, parsley and have put in 3 young citrus trees. It was a new house with a blank canvas and it just calms me down to come home from work and look at everything, give it a little water from the water tank and just be still. Sue in Brisbane

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  14. Thank you for that post.....it's what I needed to hear....I need a place to sit out there....that's not on my veranda....it's needs to be amongst plants....I think I know the spot....I just need to prune some branches that are close to the ground to create some head room....then I need to find....create a seat somehow....that will give me something to plan.....have been replanting some spots that have just not worked....this will make this area just right (well to be honest the rest is just a dump) but this will give me a spot....a place to reconnect to my garden....communicate with the earth....I think this is what I need.....my body is not cooperating at the moment....trying new meds....everything protesting....need something to make me feel good....even if I have to steal a kids seat and put there as a temporary thing...I am going to do it

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  15. Precisely how I feel about gardening. But I am that novice you envy. However, I envy someone like YOU, who has all kinds of experience to go on, and needn't waste time growing the wrong thing in the wrong place (like I did a lot of this year).

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  16. great read, I especially love the recycled seat, its better than a new one!

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  17. We had new visitors to our garden this week. They kept snapping pictures and declaring how beautiful and peaceful it was. I kept filling a large bag of veggies for them to take home! I can't get enough of being out there, pruning, puttering, planting, watering and just plain looking at it and smiling. :) It is the best room in our home!! There is Nothing like gardening..you can work hard for a long time yet in the end feel so wonderfull .....and ya can't wait to get back there again! :) Sarah

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  18. What a lovely post Rhonda. I got my love of gardening from my mum and have always had a vegie patch until now. We are living in an south facing apartment in Sydney and the Winter almost broke me. Nothing (of course) could grow, but now even the small plant and herbs I have in containers are starting to flourish and I'm loving having a 'garden' again, though I can't wait to have real soil to grown into again.

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  19. I personally like gardening because i was brought up in a community where almost everyone had a garden behind their houses. I think it brings you closer to nature.

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  20. Your veggies put our overgrown masses to shame, but inspire me too ! Cheers.

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  21. Thank you Rhonda for keeping it real. I often think my vegetable patch is less than ideal because I get insect plagues, leaves with lots of holes in them, things growing larger than their allotted space and spilling onto the paths. I'm glad to hear that as long as it's producing something, that it's a 'success'. I often look at other people's plots and marvel at the straight lines, neat rounded luscious lettuces and wonder what I'm doing wrong. I should focus on what I'm doing right and just learn as I go. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  22. I loved reading about your garden and the photos. i've still a newbie gardener and I love being out there and connecting with nature.

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  23. I loved this post. Thanks so much Rhonda. Your vegetable garden is beautiful and inspiring to grow my own.

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  24. Gardening is definitely therapeutic, Rhonda! You have captured the essence of it so well here.
    Amy

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  25. Beautifully said Rhonda. Gardening is SO much more than vegetables. My garden is pretty neglected at the moment, but I still love nothing more than sitting on my back step in the morning watching the garden and my chickens scratching. And I love that my neglected garden still rewards me with perennials like mint and rhubarb.

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  26. I very much appreciate your reminder to slow down and enjoy the moments a garden brings. I'm that novice..with my head stuck in gardening and homesteading books. I've very much enjoyed my first visit to your blog. Cheers, Jenni

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  27. Nice garden,,,do you get any unwanted visitors like snakes....

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  28. Our kid loves "binding" bananas which means he must be willing to also love "loosening" prunes. Luckily he does and I've got a case of these on subscribe and save. I've tried them myself and they are pretty yummy [for prunes].

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