Lessons Learned from the Garden

Lessons Learned from the Garden

This week marked the beginning of one of my very favorite seasons: GARDENING SEASON! Now, for many, the end of May is mid-gardening season, or maybe you can garden all year long. But here in Wyoming, at 6900 feet elevation, gardening season is short. And so I try to enjoy every single minute of it!

Gardening runs in my family. We joke that there is a “gardening gene” that we all inherit, but as a kid, I was pretty sure I did NOT have the gene. Gardening seemed like nothing but a chore–another way for my parents to make sure I learned the value of hard work. But I couldn’t see any other reason to have one. Well, except for the eating! I always loved that! But interestingly enough, the very first summer I got a chance, I wanted to have a vegetable garden of my own, and I have grown one every summer since. I have found that I really love flowers as well, and I have several flowerbeds that will look awesome in another month or so! Throughout the years, I have found that gardening is much more than just hard work, although it is that! Some of my favorite things about gardening are the natural exercise it provides, the time spent working with my husband and kids, the time working alone, the closeness I feel to my Heavenly Father when I am involved with creation, and of course, the one thing I loved all along–the delicious, home-grown produce! But perhaps my most favorite thing about gardening is the lessons I learn from it. Today, I want to share a few of those with you. I recorded these at the conclusion of gardening season a few years ago, but these lessons, as well as many I have learned before and since, stick with me.

Lesson #1: A funny thing happened this summer. After planting the garden, I took all the leftover garden seeds into the house. However, I must have dropped one right at the bottom of our back steps. This is the door we use all the time, and there is gravel at the bottom of the steps. After awhile, I noticed a small plant growing up through the rocks. At first, I thought it was a weed, but upon closer examination, I discovered that it was a pea plant. I considered pulling it–certainly there wasn’t any chance for survival right there–but I didn’t. I decided to just leave it alone, but didn’t have much hope for the poor thing. It wasn’t going to get watered at all, and it would probably be stepped on numerous times.  Time passed, and it grew, but just a little. It was definitely behind the pea plants in the garden, and I still thought it would just be a matter of time before it shriveled up and died. But I was a little curious to see what would happen, so I really tried to not step on it every time I passed over. It only grew to be about three inches in each direction, but in September, it produced. Yep, a single pea pod appeared and soon was full of mature peas. What a miracle! I learned from this little pea plant that no matter where you end up, even if it is accidental and far less than ideal, you can still fulfill your purpose.

Lesson #2: Last summer, I bought a bush that I really like and stuck in right in the center of our front island. It was supposed to be a focal point, and I was really excited about how it thrived through the summer. However, I didn’t protect it for the winter, and the deer also really liked the look (and the taste, apparently) of this poor little bush. When spring came, I was very upset to discover that every little branch had been chewed down to tiny stubs. Dead, for sure. Later in the spring, I noticed one small green leaf on one of the stubby branches. It was alive after all! Beaten down–yes–but alive. I didn’t have the heart to just kill it by tossing it aside, but I also knew that it wouldn’t be able to rejuvenate fast enough (if at all) to be the center bush in the island this summer, so I replaced it with a new one, and moved it to another place in another flower bed. During my rounds, I’d always check on it, and was always amazed that it was still alive and growing little by little. It is still far from the bush it once was, but it’s surviving. At the same time that I transplanted this resilient bush, I bought my annual flowers and planted them. I was amazed at how many of them couldn’t handle the simple move from the 4-pack planters, where they were very happy, to my soil. They looked sick almost immediately and within a week or two were completely dead. I learned that this is a lot like people. Some people can go through trials of all kinds, and be uprooted, moved, and have to struggle just to survive, and THEY MAKE IT! At the same time, some people allow one small change in circumstances to totally ruin them. I want to be like my little bush!

Lesson #3: Planting a lawn, garden, trees, bushes, flowers, etc. has given me a small glimpse of how our Heavenly Father knows each one of us. I’ve always wondered how–with so many billions of people that have existed on the earth–our Heavenly Father can know and care about each one. The answer is: We are his work. His sole purpose is to help us grow. Even though I spent far less time out among plants than I would have liked to, I knew the status of each plant. I knew that the third petunia from the left in the bottom tie-wall bed was suffering, and that the cosmos in the center of the island looked phenomenal. I realized that the rose bush at the end of the house needed a little more water than the sprinkler was giving it, and that if my bleeding heart was going to survive, it would need a lot of TLC. Heavenly Father also knows us, not as a whole group, but as individuals with individual strengths, weaknesses, and needs. And he cares far more than I am capable of caring for my little plants.

Lesson #4: Plants are also kind of like kids. I have a wonderful natural fertilizer that I use in my flowerbeds. Each year for our ranch’s bull sale, they prepare the barn for people by laying down wood chips to cover that manure that has piled up in there during the past year. When they clean it out, they just pile up this wood chip/manure mixture and let it sit. One such pile is beautiful and black, and very close to my house. I wheel my wheelbarrow over to it several times during the summer and come back to my flowerbed with the magic ingredient for growing happy, vibrant flowers. After having much success with this fertilizer in my flower garden, I was sure it would also give me a beautiful vegetable garden. Last summer I planted peas, and found that the fertilizer was just perfect for them, too. This summer, we expanded our garden, and after planting, I laid down generous amounts of the magic manure over all of it. I had high expectations for a bountiful harvest. And it wasn’t all bad, but my green beans were NOT happy. As soon as they grew up and poked through the manure mix, they burned up. I was so disappointed. How could my tried and true magic mix not work? And then it dawned on me–beans are not the same as peas. Sounds simple, right? But often I don’t fully understand this in parenting. After having my first child, I had some “tried and true” methods for teaching, training, and disciplining children. But with the next child, they didn’t all work.  I had to try something new and discover what worked for that child. And it’s the same with my garden. Next summer I’ll make some adjustments and hopefully we can enjoy some hearty green beans.

Growing up, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about with planting and growing things. I knew my mom was obsessed, but couldn’t figure why. But I’m starting to get it. Every seed is a miracle waiting to happen, and I can’t wait to learn more lessons from future gardens.

Do you garden? Why not give it a try? Start small–just one plant, and start experiencing the miracle. Gardening is just one of the many ways I choose to love my body (and spirit)!

Love your body, and your body will love you. 

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