Gardening is a metaphor for life. Storylines can be both found and constructed within a garden. I cannot imagine life without gardening and the valuable lessons it has taught me. It is my enduring belief that it builds character and community.
Contrary to popular belief, gardening is not just a spring and summer activity. There is always something to do throughout the year. Even in winter, seedlings can be started in the home or greenhouse for planting in the spring, and plans can be laid for crops and flower beds. Therefore, it can be viewed as a year-round classroom.
Here are just a few of the valuable lessons gardening can teach:
Strong work ethic
Flowers, bushes, trees and vegetables do not just grow on their own — there is watering and weeding to do, and soil to be prepared. You must watch for pests and temperature dips that can affect plants. Gardening teaches that things must be constantly cared for in order to achieve the desired results. Being lazy and allowing things to just sit can be disastrous.
Patience and dealing with diversity
It can take years to improve neglected soil. Sometimes it is difficult to determine what grows best in a particular location. Weather can change from year to year, creating failures. There will be victories and disappointments and nurturing is a required investment for the reward a garden brings. But how great the satisfaction when "try, try again" yields a beautiful and delicious success!
Planning will become second nature
Disorganized and arbitrary attempts at gardening will provide its share of failures. Planning, therefore, is vital and seems to come more naturally with each passing year. Planning a garden teaches the value of looking ahead and preparing for the future.
Respect for nature and the miracle of life
How amazing is it to watch an entire plant sprout up and take root from a tiny seed? Or how inspiring is it to watch a small sapling grow into a mighty tree, or find that the encasing of a seed can be a large edible fruit? Even in a small garden, there can be an entire community of interdependent plants and animals you can discover that can help you more fully grasp the miracle of life.
Working together as a family on a project, sharing in its responsibilities, and reaping its failures and rewards is a bonding experience. Gardening can also provide spiritual moments and epiphanies in personal lives as nature unfolds its lessons.
Nature is a wonderful teacher and as such, it is a perfect tool for learning. When you dig your hands into the soil, you are communing with nature. This communion connects us to a series of cycles from which we learn to work hard, have more patience, respect nature and the miracle of life, and where we can ultimately gain wisdom.
If you have never planted a garden before, begin researching the best way to grow one for the space you have and the area in which you live. Even if you live in an apartment and have no outdoor space, you can still grow a small patio garden or even an indoor herb garden. If the growing season has just ended and your garden has stopped producing for the summer, record notes about what worked and what didn't so you will have them on hand for next spring. If it's the time of year to get outside and start your garden, challenge yourself to try one new vegetable or fruit you have never grown before and make plans for how and where you will grow it this year.
"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." - Mary Sarton