Gardening As Metaphor
Gardening is a perfect metaphor for life. Life that starts with a single seed, or cell and grows and develops into a full-fledged being or entity. We need the same things the garden needs to thrive. Plenty of sunlight, clean air, water, and nourishing soil are the basics. In addition the climate, environment and seasons also play their part in our experience. If any of these things is missing or too harsh or extreme for us to handle – our outcome isn’t so great.
Our first concerns when surveying an already established garden as well as when thinking of starting a new one are similar. It is best if you know what it is you want. Do you want a garden that is merely something pretty to look at? Or do you want one that will feed your body as well as your other senses? Is it in the best location, with the proper orientation? Who or what will help and not harm? Companion planting is a lot like making friends, or starting any kind of relationship. Are the people in your life going to improve it or be detrimental to it? If they are not going to be good companions it may be time to weed them from your garden.
Planning Your Garden
Making a list of what you want your garden to do for you, like a list of what you want your life to look like is a good first step. Now is a good time to do this if you haven’t already. We are about halfway between Imbolc and Ostara, two of the three Spring fertility Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year. Ostara this year will be March 20th. This time of year is also called the Vernal or Spring Equinox and signals the start of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere (it is opposite in the Southern Hemisphere). So right now is the time to make plans before Spring is officially underway. What do you want your garden to look like? What do you want it to provide you with? What are you willing to do to start and maintain it? These questions should be considered for both your backyard garden and your life in general.
Timing and Patience
With both gardens and our lives there are optimal times to plant certain things, for both short and long-term. Long term thinking might include planting fruit trees that may take a few years to provide fruit, but will be around providing for many years to come. In our lives long term planning might include a plan to attend a University, or enter into a marriage. Short term plans are just as important and can be used to build toward or support the longer term plans. Friends or projects that maybe only last a season can be just as helpful as say planting flowers like nasturtiums under your fruit trees. These flowers will attract beneficial insects and act as trap crops for non-beneficial insects, they are also entirely edible so could even go in your salad. Get the most benefit from even short term associations by having the long range plans in mind and working seasonally with the intention to move toward your goals.
Know Your Zone
In gardening some things can be grown in some zones, and some things can not. Know what your particular Hardiness Zone is and plan accordingly. An example might be fruit trees that need a certain number of chill hours to produce fruit. While you might be able to plant and grow them in other zones with less chill hours, there is a good chance they will never bear fruit. You can sometimes try a different variety of fruit tree that has lower chill hour requirements. Or say you live in a lower numbered hardiness zone and want to grow something that can’t tolerate the cold, you might be able to build a micro-climate or even a green house that would allow you to be successful. These fixes can only be attempted when you know your zone and what you want to accomplish first. In life it might be like getting an introvert or Highly Sensitive Person to go to a party or busy shopping center, it can be done, but some considerations must be taken into account for it to be successful. Knowing your zone is really like knowing your limits, once you know them you can more easily work toward raising or expanding them.
Build the Soil
If we want to produce beautiful roses, or a delicious squash we need to provide the plants with the nutrients they need. This is equivalent to nurturing yourself and your relationships with others. It starts at the very basic level of your thoughts, or mental diet. If you are putting good healthy thoughts and media information in to begin with it is much easier to get good healthy results. How you spend your time is another way to build your soil. Are you spending it in ways that add to your life? Or are you doing things you either don’t want to be doing, or you know aren’t good for you? Our relationships with others can also be building or depleting our soil, this goes both ways don’t deplete anyone else’s soil either. Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” makes the point that in relationships we have a sort of emotional bank account and we should be depositing into these accounts regularly and not withdrawing more than we have deposited. This is a good rule of thumb in both relationships and in the garden. You wouldn’t expect much to grow in soil that has already been overworked with nothing added back. Think about the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the thirties, over-farming, overgrazing, poor farming practices, and drought were devastating.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
So how does your garden grow? Have you planned it out? Are you tending it, and building the soil? It is an explosion of life, or barely surviving? How rich, rewarding, and fun can your garden and your life become? As Geoff Lawton is fond of saying “All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden”.