I had a chance to reflect on the garden and the 5 lessons gardening taught me about life. I’d love to share them with you.
Every year it’s different, and you learn a lot that way
Last year, we had so many cucumbers that we ended up giving loads away and juicing many of them. I pickled about 20 jars of them too. This year, we have two plants (all the rest died) which gave us under 10 cucumbers. Every year is different. It’s a little bit devastating, but it also teaches us valuable lessons on what we can do going forward. Could I supplement with nutrients? Did I not water enough? Did I plant enough flowers that attract pollinators?
Which leads me to just think about life in general. When something doesn’t work out the way I planned it, I tend to do inward and figure it out, dissect it, analyze it. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. And at the risk of sounding cliche, life really does teach you the hard way. And the learning comes from things not going your way. There’s goodness in that too, down deep.
Replenish Your Resources
The 2nd lesson in 5 Lessons That Gardening Taught Me has to do with resources. The garden shows you pretty quickly when it’s being robbed of them. Roots typically take nutrients from the soil. I think we all understand that. But over time, the soil can get depleted unless we replenish it somehow. Add compost, make your own compost tea (I sometimes make nettle tea, it works as well), add seaweed, worm castings, etc. Just keep an eye on things. You can’t plant in the same garden year after year without giving something back to it.
Which, of course, leads me to think about my own routines. And yours. How many times do you work, work, work, and don’t take time to replenish? I find taking time to read a good book, sleep in, go for a hike ~ these are all ways to replenish my reserves. It’s just as important, and the garden reminds us of this.
Everything has a life cycle
I’ve always been fascinated with cycles, I think. My first music CD (I wrote original songs) was called Spring. The next one was called Autumn. If I ever get back to creating music again, I would love to come up with Winter and Summer.
Our new cookbook Seasonal Eating is also focused on the cycle of the seasons. And it was only recently that I realized how much I feel in tune with change.
My kale plants eventually flower and go to seed. Essentially, they’re dying, but in their last efforts they try to pass on their genes and grow more babies. If they don’t die, we don’t have seeds, so it’s a necessity. Death is the start of new life.
The farmers markets close down close to Thanksgiving, and I’m not being dramatic when I say that there are tears in my eyes as I pull away with my last box of apples. And tears again in my eyes, when the first summer apples show up in the stands. The cycle of ending and beginning is alive, and it breeds appreciation.
So where does this leave you and I? Are you able to say no to some things, let things go, let things END in hopes of beginning something else? By saying no more to things that don’t serve you in your life, you allow new and better things to come in. It’s a good question to ask and a fun half hour to journal about.
Think like a farmer
My friend Kristin and I talk about farming/gardening a lot. I’m a gardener, she’s a farmer, and we have very different (and fun) views about it. I plant a lot of flowers for pollinators, the garden is a huge mess, with me seeding wherever I see space. I let things die and collect the seeds. It’s ok if it’s messy, and I’m lax about it. Probably because I have the farmers market to supply my need if my garden doesn’t meet it.
She is a farmer, and she told me that’s definitely not how they do things. Things are orderly, in lines, and when a product is done, it’s pulled out because that’s taking up prime real estate. After listening to her, I am actually loving this new perspective. For a higher yield, you sort of have to be ruthless sometimes. Pulling out a dying plant is not my forte. Pruning apple trees and cutting them actually broke my heart.
But sometimes a hard pruning is good. Harvesting kale or collards when you have white flies is good – clip every leaf, and new ones will grow up. If you leave them on the stalk too long, they’ll start to yellow and die.
I often look at places in my life where I can take better advantage of the things I have. As strange as it sounds, I wonder if there are things in my life that I’m not using up and I could, otherwise they go bad. A book I buy but don’t get the time to read, and then years later I’m no longer interested in it. Spices I buy that I forget about and don’t use up, and then they aren’t as fresh. Not using things in the moment they are at high peak, to fully experience them.
Be here, now.
Not sure if you all know, but I’m a musician and a teacher. Some days, I work on this blog, then I teach lessons for hours, dinner, then I settle down. Sadly, there have been days when all I get in the garden is 10 minutes. And those are terrible days for my heart. But when I do go out, especially in early fall, I hear a slow hum of crickets and the cascade of blue jays and quiet from the children being in school. And I get this overwhelming feeling of pure peace and appreciation for this special place. I’m finally present, being here, in this moment, now.
How often do we postpone joy? How often are we asleep, doing other things, too tired to notice it? We wait for it, search for it, buy the next things so we achieve it, and it’s actually all around us. The garden is medicine for me. I can’t explain it, except that it closest resembles being in love. That feeling that fills you up and you can’t explain. It brings tears to my eyes. The garden reminds me that what I need, cherish, wish for is right here. Right now. I don’t have to wait for it. And if that’s the case, I truly have the most beautiful life. And perhaps you’ll find that you do too.
These are the 5 lessons gardening taught me. Hope they resonate with you too.