Monday, October 10, 2011

Garden Lessons 2011

Gardening is a form of moving meditation.  It draws me into the immediate.  Each leaf and petal are drawn in vibrant relief, embedded in my mind.  I become part of a microcosm of veins and roots.  At the same time, my awareness broadens, taking in the over arching lessons, the laws of life and nature that not only govern my garden, but me as well.

My garden has taught me a lot this year.  Not only about gardening (don't plant pole beans under a bird net) but about life (when we are at our fullest, winter is coming). So this blog post is about the lessons learned and relearned and what is in store for the future.

This year, as last year, I started tomatoes from seed.  I won't bother doing that going forward.  My seedlings were spindly and died quickly when I planted them outside, so I went to Meijer and bought three varieties of tomatoes: a yellow cherry, an heirloom called "Big Stripey," and a red cherry.  The red cherry did poorly but the other two did well.  Gardening and life lesson?  Focus on improving what you are good at.  You can struggle to fix your flaws and become mediocre or even good at something or you can focus your energies on what you are already good at and become great.  

 Big Stripey- huge tomatoes with a mild flavor.  It was fun planting an heirloom variety but next year I think I'll go with a more traditional beefsteak variety.

Yellow Cherry- This plant produced a lot of very tasty fruit, a must have for next year.
This is what my yellow cherry tomato plant looks like. At some point  in July I stopped pulling suckers off.  Now I have given up trying to restrain it, sort of how I feel about raising a teenager.


This year I became a die hard pole bean fan.  Last year I planted bush beans and they did well.  This spring a neighbor gave me several bean plants which he thought were bush beans.  A few weeks later, after they had completely entangled themselves in the bird netting over my garden, I realized they were pole beans.  As you can see from the picture below, they have created a lovely arc of foliage over my garden.  I thought for about thirty seconds that I would be able to untangle them from the netting at the end of the season, but I think I will pitch it and buy new.  Garden lesson repeated from above: Don't plant pole beans under bird netting.

It is a good thing we like beans because these plants have been incredibly productive.  I've been blanching and freezing beans for weeks.   I will buy special decorative stands for them to crawl up for next year.  I not only love the vegetable but I love the attitude of beans. They creep up or across anything in a spectacular display of an unrelenting natural directive to express themselves.  It is like they are shouting "I am a bean! I must climb!"  as they curl around the zinnias, the crab apple tree, and inch across the ground looking for something else to grab on to.  They remind me to be true to my own essence.  I am who I am.  That essence is the common denominator as I shift roles from employee to mother to writer to wife.  Beans are beans just as I am me, in a very elemental way.

The Vermin Death Squad


This is Lyla, Pugsley, and Tiger.  While other parts of the neighborhood resemble a Disney movie with lots of little critters frolicking across lawns and flitting through trees, because of these guys, our yard resembles the fields of Mordor, silent and littered with the remains of unlucky chipmunks, baby rabbits, and squirrels.  For a while Lyla very proudly returned to the house with snakes.  That is the price I pay for employing the feline mafia to protect my garden.  If a creature does start munching, I line the three cats up and lecture them and then they redouble their efforts.  It is a true lesson in the cycle of life.  Another thing I take away is to enjoy every moment because you never know when you will be pounced on.


This is the last major harvest for the season.  I will still get some tomatoes and a few herbs, but the beans have pretty much stopped producing and the warm weather plants don't like the cool nights.  I was struck by two things as I was gathering in the fruits of my labor.  First how the plants are at their most fruitful just before winter.  It reminds me that even in the smaller cycles in our lives, there is a natural ebb and flow.  Everything cannot be at its peak all the time. Winter is a necessary part of life, a time to rejuvenate, for the soil to fortify itself with newly composted plant matter, for plants to rest.  All so that when spring comes we are ready for the growth and new challenges.  The second thing that came to mind was that the universe provides.  As I harvest from my plants I feel blessed with the generosity of nature.  It reminds me that if you have a need and you express that need and actively work towards filling it, the universe will provide the means to fulfill it.  Abundance is a natural state of being.

I cannot spend one moment in my garden and not be amazed at the miracle that is life.  How varied and well adapted each plant is to its purpose.  How beautiful that variation is.  My garden truly reflects the beauty and variation I see in my own life.  And I cherish it.

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