The garden may start out simply as a place to grow food, flowers and herbs. It may start as a place to grow some food for your family, so you can have garden fresh tomatoes or fresh herbs. It may be a place to gather cut flowers for your dining table, but in time you may notice that the garden has a broader effect on your life. It has a way of teaching us more than we think possible. It may be subtle or it may be a big smack in the face. Over the years I have learned a vast amount about not only nature, but myself through the garden.
One thing the garden definitely teaches us is patience. A good example of this is the long wait through winter before we can start sowing seeds for the garden. Yes you can grow things in the winter in the house, but there isn’t enough sunlight to grow plants in the winter. It is possible to grow under cover, but to do that, you really need to have started your plants usually by mid summer to get them to a mature size before hitting your Persephone Period. (The term coined by Eliot Coleman, for the days that receive less than 10 hours of sunlight per day.) So the garden teaches us patience during this time of year. Waiting to receive seed catalogs, sowing seeds and getting our hands in workable soil has taught me patience. Patience is something we learn all over the garden, through the seasons, but during the winter days it really hits home. Another example is waiting for seeds to sprout, even though I know it may take days to even weeks for seeds to sprout, I can’t help myself, but check daily. I have to find patience in those moments, the same goes for making compost. Allowing the time needed to unfold teaches us to allow this to happen beyond the garden. It suddenly is easier to wait for something in life to happen because we have been primed to have patience within the garden.
Perseverance is another thing the garden can teach us. No matter how long we have been gardening, every season has it’s challenges. One year it might be terrible compost that wasn’t finished or full of wood, etc. Another year it may be low germination rates or damping off. It could be a whole host of pests in the garden, water issues, hail, wind, sun scold, the list goes on and on. Anything really could potentially cause havoc in the garden, it’s all about balance and following nature, but the potential for havoc to happen is always there. Each season there may come a time when we have to decide to persevere through the hard times and carry on or to toss in the towel. I can tell you when we decide to persevere, the joy of success is that much sweeter! Learning to keep going each season transfers to outside of the garden when things happen in life. Calling on the gumption we gained from our experience in the garden when life gets hard can truly be so beneficial to make it through tough times.
The garden teaches us the value of mindfulness and our connection to all things. I have found over time that gardening pulls us in and helps us be more mindful. It is quite easy for me to settle in and really connect to the process of tending the garden, of harvesting food, flowers and herbs. It really is a mindfulness practice at heart. Gardening, to me, is a form of meditation like anything else in life can be. We can even just sit within the garden, in fact I tell all coaching clients that they should have a sitting space or even a single chair to sit in the garden. Taking the time to just sit in the garden allows us to be mindful and in the moment. It allows us to connect with nature, teaching us that we are connected to all things as we sit in the garden and see all the creatures and critters that come to the garden.
Gardening is so much more than growing plants. It opens us up to new experiences, teaches us to persevere and be mindful. It shows us our connection to nature and each other. It teaches us to let go and grow. The garden is a fabulous life teacher, each season bringing with it something new to experience and learn from. When we open to the possibilities of what the garden can teach us, we grow as much, if not more than the plants, season by season.