Gardens Are Good For The Soul

I grew up in a small farming community in Michigan. My mother had a very large garden; about 50’x300′, and it was a source of dread for me most days. There was always work to be done; planting in the Spring, endless weeding, harvesting in late Summer and early Fall, canning, freezing, and the ever dreaded plucking of fat, green tomato worms.

I resented this “work” most of the time, mostly because it kept me from my friends who never seemed to have as many chores as my brothers and I. The only enjoyment I got from gardening in those days were the times I sat with my mom in the flower bed while she planted lily of the valley and marigolds; as it was rare time spent with her.from morgue

I left home when I was 16, living mostly in apartments, happy not to have the dirty, broken fingernails, blisters, and calluses that went along with gardening. Other than the occasional house plant, I grew nothing and was perfectly content with buying my produce at the local veggie market or grocery store. Some eight years later I bought my first house; a little log cabin on two acres, nestled by a river and pine trees. Initially, I was busied by redecorating my new home and filling it with my “things”. I took in a couple of dogs, entertained friends, and brought my two children into the world there.

I maintained the lawn, which I never minded, and learned a little about growing fruit tress since there were a half dozen or so that had been planted by the previous owner. The more time I spent in the yard, the more my thoughts pondered things I might like to plant. I found myself wandering through garden centers from time to time, and eventually bought a couple of rose bushes that were half priced. The next summer they boasted blooms that were about 6 inches across and I smiled broadly when my visitors would admire them. From

As one might suspect, that led to more and more plantings of various kinds. I planted morning glories outside my daughters’ bedroom window, daisies by the front porch, and a handful of tomato plants next to the shed. Within a couple of years, I had a large rock garden with a variety of perennials and added peppers and cucumbers to my vegetable garden. I started swapping plants with friends and thoroughly enjoyed cooking with the vegetables I had planted.

When my children were very young, I was thrown back into life in apartments due to my divorce and wasn’t able to plant much of anything for about 12 years…only this time I missed it terribly. I would sit with my gardening magazines, and slowly flip through the pages and dream of a day when I would be able to garden once more. I would imagine a large vegetable garden and flower beds that surrounded my future home. I read about the types of flowers that attract butterflies and how to keep hydrangeas blue. I had a scrapbook which was filled with pages of garden sketches and pictures of the blooms I longed to grow one day. I would gaze at gardens of friends and family and found myself unable to resist the urge to sit on the edge



of their beds plucking weeds that threatened to encroach on their beautiful plants.

In 2010, I married my husband and we bought a house in my home town. It was a foreclosure home, and had been sitting empty for several years before we purchased it. It had been quite abused and needed an enormous amount of work and although I planned and saved for the work we would do on the house itself, I, not so secretly, couldn’t wait to get my hands (and feet) in the dirt. I worked diligently digging beds and prepping the soil. My husband tilled up a small garden for my vegetables, build 4 raised beds and put up landscape timbers to hold my flowers. I re-aquainted myself with rakes and hoes, and trowels and found a silly sense of joy at my first blister. My daughters spent many hours away from their phones, television, and video games to watch and help me plant and harvest and can. We not only cultivated food for our family, but precious time together being one with Nature.

That was four years ago, and I now have a garden the size of my mother’s. Although it changes a bit from year to year, I have grown tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, peas, beans, cabbage, green onions, squashes, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, beets, and a variety of other vegetables. I have two large strawberry gardens, various herbs, and I plan to start growing grapes this year. I have over 10 flower beds wrapped beautifully around my house and trees and hope to plant fruit trees and a few maples in the Spring. As opposed to my childhood years, I welcome the dirty fingernails and am never happier than when I am covered from head to toe with the earth.

I find it funny to think of that, which caused me so much angst in my youth, and how much joy it brings me today. I spend many a Winter day planning my Spring  rituals and answering questions like, “which herbs do I need to make my own chamomile tea?”, “Do I have enough room to try sweet potatoes?”, and “What can I use to better support my peas this year? “. I still flip through seed catalogues and gardening magazines to find the right

from morgue

from morgue

heirloom veggies and new flowers I want to grow. I love to see the shelves in my basement filled with canned food I made from my own harvests and my freezer full of berries and vegetables. It brings me happiness to know I am feeding my family with foods free from pesticides and preservatives and I love sharing plants once again with neighbors and friends.

I have found, though, that maybe the most important thing I have learned from gardening is the sense of wellbeing it brings. According to many health studied, gardening has been found to improve your health by lowering the risk of dementia, inflammatory diseases, and immune illnesses. It has been proven to lower stress, increase attention, and brighten one’s mood. Gardening is also a fun way to get exercise which can increase flexibility and strength. It has even been found that the soil contains a harmless bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae that can act to increase serotonin levels in the brain which can aid in depression. Research has also shown that eating foods that are grown locally are the best for consumption.

In addition to health benefits, gardening results in a profound sense of accomplishment. Working the soil, planting the seeds, supplying water and food for the plants to grow, and keeping them free from disease and weeds, all result in a tangible, rewarding supply of



fruits, vegetables, and flowers which are life giving. Canning your crops and making teas, juices, sauces, and even wine can promote creativity and gifts to others.

Planting also keeps us in tune with nature and reminds us that we thrive when it thrives. Digging in the ground creates a bond between us and Mother Earth and enforces the knowledge that you reap what you sow. It provides quiet time to revel in the sounds of birds and other wildlife; a meditation of sorts. It reminds us of the importance of rain and sunshine and helps us to appreciate both. It gives us something to look forward to when the Winter seems long. It helps us accept the circle of life and the idea that there is a season for everything. As the song goes :

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

And from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) :

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

In your efforts to grow better as a person, happier with life, or more at Peace with universe…my advice is to plant something. Regardless of how much space you have or what that something is…plant something. On a windowsill, in a clay pot, on a patio, in a



greenhouse, or in your yard…plant something. Garden! Garden to your heart’s content! Gardening is good for the soul!

Some information learned at the following sites:

2 thoughts on “Gardens Are Good For The Soul

  1. I love this! I, too, remember my teenage self complaining about helping in the garden. My grandparents lived next door to us and my grandmother had 2 huge gardens, one for food and one just for her roses. Some of my fondest memories of my grandmother are helping her in the garden, eating sugar snap peas and strawberries right off the vine! Where we live now is not a good environment to grow much more than moss. But I find myself drawn to gardening again as I get older. We have even been talking about buying some land after the kids are grown for our own little farm!

  2. Hi Andrea! I think that would be so cool to have a little farm! I always thought the idea of a community garden was great too. I’ve heard of communities where each person plants something specific and then they all share their harvests. If someone gets ill or has some kind of issue that prevents them from working their garden, the others help out. Sort of Amish-ish 🙂

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