17 May 2010

Gardening grows the spirit

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.



  1. Your garden looks beautiful!!. I was finally able to start working in my community garden plot yesterday, turning soil over and adding new soil from the composted soil that is available to gardeners. I will be able to start planting this week. We do have a short growing season here, basically from the very end of May to September.

    Have a wonderful day.

  2. Dear Rhonda, a beautiful garden! I was wondering how you grow sweet potatoes, can you start sweet potato plants from store bought sweet potatoes, if so... how do I start it? I've heard of people putting them in jars with water but I'm not sure how that process goes. Would love to grow them because they are one of my favorite foods!

  3. I am planting a garden for the first time this year. My four year old daughter loves it, and enjoys "helping" me. She even has her own little corner where she planted some flowers and has fu digging.
    I love your garden, how it is all seperated into sections. Someday I hope to be able to garden that way. Our soil is full of clay, so walking in it tends to make your shoes heavy! :) I can't wait to eat our fresh veggies and enjoy the fruits (or veggies!) of our labor! :)
    -Randi C.

  4. This is why I garden; teaching tool for my son, and desperately needed "time to centre" for myself. And of course food and foliage is a bonus.

  5. Your garden is wonderful. I particularly enjoy the vast array of plants and vegetables you grow, and in such a small space!
    I love your blog, I anticipate it eagerly to help centre me for the day.

  6. Good morning fellow gardeners. Thank you for sharing your stories, I love knowing we are not in this alone.

    Grace, I found this wonderful page with everything you'll need to know about growing sweet potatoes. Good luck!


  7. Good morning Rhonda.
    I had a lovely day pottering in my garden yesterday. I planted a few sweet potatoes in February and didn't really think they would come to anything as I thought it wasn't a long enough warm growing season. So I was pleased and surprised yesterday to find a beautiful sweet potato. I hope there will be more.
    I a going to pot up some cuttings and try to keep them going over the winter as I had found it hard to get them to sprout previously.
    Enjoy your day.

  8. I'm excited to see the growth in my garden. We are in the middle of hte current growing season, and I'm starting to harvest some things. The lettuce has gone bitter, so I'm waiting for it to produce seed, the out it comes! I love getting my hands dirty and see life come from such a small thing as a seed.

  9. Your garden is looking great Rhonda, way ahead of ours at this time of year - seems I've been too busy knitting and making soap (oops!) Sonya

  10. I can't do a great deal of gardening because of health problems but I do adore doing it. I feel as if the tension leaches out of my body, through my hands, into the earth. It's noteworthy that the Bible says in Genesis that God put Adam into the garden of Eden "to cultivate and take care of it", so it's no wonder we get such therapeutic benefits from gardening.

  11. I love your writing, and your garden is beautiful. It is fun to read your posts because your season is so different then mine. Still spring here in Oregon and I am just getting my garden going. Have a blessed day Rhonda.


  12. I love the food aspect of gardening - I'm so spoiled now that restaurants are often disappointing - but I also really love the meditative aspect. It's a bit like the Buddhist idea of "mindfulness", but with a greedy sensuousness built in! I also love the sense of integrity in it - mind body and soul all lined up.

  13. Thank you for posting the photos of the garden.
    I was wondering how tall the fence around my veggies would have to be to stop the chickens getting in.. (we've gone from 0 chickens to 8 in 2 weeks)... and it looks like it's about normal picket fence height. I REALLY don't want my girls ruining my vegetables!

    Another question: I'm going to be getting a big chook run built. It will be in the back corner of my suburban block, surrounded on 2 sides by paling fences at 6' high, and by a garage on one side. Will it need to have a roof to keep them safe from cats? It will have a deciduous tree in there to shade them in summer, and I can just imagine the mess that all the leaves will make on a roof in autumn...

  14. Hi Rhonda. I called Tonu out to look at the photo of Martha and we both smiled at it. Your garden is looking fabulous, good on you and Hanno.
    I've beenmeaning to ask you if you tape Costa's Odyssey, SBS Thursdays 8pm, I know you would both love it. http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/costa/

  15. Thats it! Im calling my mum and asking if together we can grow a small kitchen garden here (Murrumbeena VIC). You send out tremendous waves of inspiration to all...now it is our diligent work to mix with your inspiration, and i hope i'll be eating home grown delights in some months to come!!!! Love Your Writing! New girl to your blog! Sita 29 y.o!

  16. Yes. There is nothing like the miracle of a seed, is there?

  17. Your cabbages look lovely. Our garden is looking good too. I need to do a post like this one to show the update of our garden.

  18. I cannot stay inside all day even when the garden doesn't need tending at that moment. Just to go out and look around I find myself tinkering and pruning a thing or two or picking this or that or just standing back and smiling and watching the birds. To think of a life with just four walls and no garden is sad. My mother was in an assisted living place that had a garden area and the residents were encouraged to help and to suggest things. I was so happy to find such a place. She loved it!! I sure hope I can garden forever!!! Sarah

  19. What a beautiful post, thank you. This is my first year gardening - I'll take your wisdom and put it to good use! Pictures are lovely too, cheers.

  20. Wow, what a great garden! We planted our first garden this year and are really enjoying watching things grow. I look forward to eating fresh vegetables and strawberries, as well as having some extras for canning. I hope to expand next year.

  21. Your garden is so beautiful and productive!
    I also wanted to add another benefit of gardening is a wholesome, outdoor activity for a family to do together. Kids love the tangible journey from seed to food.

  22. You are so right about gardening being a source of healing! We have two beautiful boys, but between them came an agonizing miscarriage. I spent every morning that summer in my garden, just thinking about life and returning to the world.

  23. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for this post! I feel the same way about gardening- it is very therapeutic for me. Some days after 8 hours at the office, going home to my backyard and mucking around in the garden brings me back to a good mood and reconnects me with the earth. I am just off to write on my own blog about some of the things in my garden that aren't growing, but such is the life of a gardener or a farmer- it's all a gamble no matter how much TLC you put into it!

  24. I enjoyed this post. I also find gardening 'therapeutic'. Apart from the benefits you mention, I'm certain that good comes from being out of doors, breathing air that has been cleansed by green plants and getting a dose of sunlight. It can also be quite a workout, even resulting in a few aching muscles the next day.
    In my busy life, I am often torn between using those precious 'spare' moments to garden or to craft and sew.


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