Thinking about trying your hand at a veggie garden this year? A great adventure awaits you! As a potential newbie, you may not know that gardening is truly a life-changing experience.
Picture a lovely May morning, shortly after sunrise. A dazzling blue sky is home to a few whispy white clouds, the sun offers a pleasing warmth to your skin and a gentle breeze occasionally ruffles your hair. The heavenly scents of healthy soil and sweet alyssum greet your nose as the warbling of a resident wren mixes with a symphony of birdcalls to create beautiful music for your ears.
You meander through your veggie garden, exclaiming with delight over the shiny green leaves and lovely white blossoms of sugar snap peas. Friendly bees are just beginning their early morning pollinating rounds, yellow tufts of pollen already collecting on their little legs. A toad, on the alert for a breakfast of slugs, hops among the Market Express turnip plants. You pause to pinch out a sucker on your heirloom tomato plant. The rich and distinct odor of the plant lingers on your fingers as you dream of the delectable taste of that first ripe tomato you’ll harvest in July. Your gaze drifts to morning dew sparkling on the leaves of newborn cucumber plants that have just poked through the soil. You marvel at the miracle of life that emerges from a tiny seed—a seed that you planted. The dainty sky-blue flowers of the flax you planted–as a beneficial companion for your carrots and potatoes–wave in the breeze, clamoring for your attention.
A happy sigh escapes your lips as you mellow into the feeling of peace that settles over you like a welcoming caress whenever you visit the garden. And although “blessed” is not a word you normally find in your vocabulary, it exactly describes how you feel in this moment. You can’t imagine starting the day in any other way. You have become A Gardener.
Creating a veggie garden offers us the opportunity to understand Nature on an observational and experiential level. Because a veggie garden requires a bit of daily maintenance, we begin to notice the rhythm of natural cycles. As we work (play?) in the garden and notice what’s going on around us, we develop an appreciation for our allies–all the insects, birds, frogs, snakes, soil organisms, earthworms and plants that add their unique contributions to maintaining a healthy environment. We see how every living creature has a purpose and plays a part in Nature’s grand design.
The “lowly” dandelion that we once wanted to obliterate from our lawns is a treasure we now add to our compost pile to boost fertility. Critters that we once feared or loathed are now seen as friends and partners. The toad that graces our garden is no longer seen as ugly, but is valued for the grubs and slugs that it eats. The garter snake is no longer feared, but greeted with gratefulness for the part it plays in eating insects and mice. We don’t recoil when we see a worm—we rejoice! As budding gardeners, we learned that earthworms improve soil structure and their castings are a fabulous fertilizer.
As we seek to improve our gardening techniques, we learn about the microcosm beneath our feet. We develop a healthy respect and appreciation for the millions of organisms in our garden soil that are responsible for producing good growing conditions for our veggies.
As we grow into the gardening life, we realize that soil is not dirt. Dirt is an unwanted substance that we suck up in a vacuum cleaner. Soil is alive! It’s teeming with organisms that contribute to plant life. One tablespoon of soil contains more organisms than the Earth’s people population. Soil is the foundation–not only for a healthy garden, but for all life on Earth. The amazing number and variety of plants, shrubs and trees that shelter and feed most of the life forms on earth– including us—grow and thrive because of healthy soil.
As gardeners, we reap so many benefits beyond the harvest. We discover that gardening can become a meditative practice that is soothing and comforting. When we step into the garden, we find ourselves slowing down and appreciating all the life and beauty around us. We begin to realize that we are part of—not separate from—Nature. We actually feel our partnership with Nature and give up trying to control it.
When we begin to value our garden for the joy as well as the bounty it gives us, we extend our gardening knowledge to include stewardship of our little plot of land. We discover that gardeners play a key role in protecting the environment, because everything we do in the garden can either help or hurt our planet. We realize that using environmentally friendly gardening techniques is every gardener’s responsibility. As we learn more about stewarding our land, it dawns on us that each home garden is a strand in the giant web of gardens on the Earth. Every strand in the web is important and makes a contribution to the whole.
Now it feels natural to value and care for the Earth. Now we have come full circle. Now we realize that gardening is truly a life-changing experience.