Time and again, I’ve found myself feeling profoundly affected by a spontaneous connection I’ve made between the green, growing plants in my garden, and the ever changing life I’m cultivating for myself. I’m not sure if it’s the increased vitamin D from the sunshine, or the grounding energy from the soil or plants themselves that are whispering wisdom into my cells while I work…but send me out to the garden feeling frazzled and stressed, and I’ll walk back into the house a few hours later feeling like a completely different woman, often with new insights into my problems and fresh creativity to spare.
Turns out, gardens are metaphorical as shit.
I’ve been thinking about this lately as my garden season winds down to a close, and thought I’d share with you some of the lessons my garden has taught me over the years.
- You can’t make a seed grow. As much as you want to, you alone do not have the power to transform a seed into something big. We’ve all been there in life: you plant one seed, pin all your hopes and wishes on it, and get crushed when it fails to germinate. You can, however, plant lots of seeds, and give them whatever nurture is in within your control, and try not to get too attached.
- Plant what you want to enjoy. The first year I planted my garden it was a ton of work, and I didn’t enjoy the harvest that much…I had an overabundance of string beans (turns out I sort of hate them), more pumpkins than a single family can eat or enjoy (and they took up so much SPACE!) and marjoram, which I still don’t freaking know what to do with. Flash forward six seasons: I’ve reallocated the space to a huge variety herbs (all of which I use regularly), strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb (which we can’t get enough of) and a select handful of other favorites. And I’m thrilled with the harvest, every time. Sound like life, much? Because who really wants to live a life where you’ve planted all the wrong things.
- You have to remember to harvest. Three seasons ago, I planted rows and rows and rows of greens. I tilled the soil, I stirred in my compost, I planted the seeds with care and weeded diligently. Then I got busy, and forgot all about my garden for several concurrent weeks. I came outside one day and realized all my spinach had gone to seed—meaning I’d forgotten to harvest it in its prime, rendering all of my labors up to that point wasted. Lesson learned: don’t get so busy that you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
- If a plant is unhealthy, change the environment it grows in. If a plant is wilting, it’s not because it’s inherently flawed, it just needs water. Have you ever seen a tomato plant try to grow without a plant stand? It’s puny and twisted and sad lying alone on the dirt, but give it the external support structure it needs (i.e. a plant stand) and it’ll grow like nobody’s business. We’re like that too. Learn to notice what you look and act like when certain needs aren’t met, so you can feed yourself and change your environment accordingly.
- Putting loving energy into a space makes it a place you want to spend time in. I love just lounging in my folding chair in the grass next to the garden. I look over and think, I made that. It feels good. I even started working out in my backyard under a shade tree this summer. I just can’t get enough of my tiny backyard retreat.
- Even the soil needs rest. You don’t need to grow things all the time. In fact, you shouldn’t. Sometimes you get to let everything go and do literally nothing for a few months, and it doesn’t mean you’re dysfunctional.
- Things you thought were dead will come back to life. I’ve seen this so many times. In life, it might look like ideas or opportunities or even relationships that you thought were over and done with, but actually, they were just dormant. Or traumatized and/or neglected, but ready for another go. Whenever this happens, in your garden or in your life, recognize it for the miracle it is.
- Planning ahead can really pay off. Every October, I purchase two heads of garlic, separate them into cloves and plant them in my garden. Total effort: a reminder note on my calendar plus about fifteen minutes. Result: 10+ big ole heads of garlic the next summer (plus garlic scapes in June, nomnomnom). It wouldn’t work if I did it in the spring like all my other planting, but just a tiny bit of planning ahead opens up new worlds of possibilities.
- Beauty is a legitimate reason for existence. A life filled with only utilitarian, practical choices will get boring. A yard with only fruit and vegetable plants will be bountiful but a little dull. But throw in some flowers in there? Game=changed. Quality of life=leveled up. (Also, I was talking to a beekeeper friend who knows a lot about the bee crisis and learned that the world now has enough HIVES but we need more FLOWERS. So, reason #2 for all of us to plant more beauty in our yards. Let’s feed the pollinators!)
- There’s always enough to share. Other gardeners will give you extra plants and veggies, and when your own garden is established, you can begin to spread the wealth too. When you’re taking good care of yourself, you create a scenario where you can give from a place of abundance, and that’s always a beautiful thing.
That’s all from me, friends! I hope you enjoy a lovely fall weekend, and maybe get to play outside a little bit.