Grow a garden–and grow yourself

Here in the dead of winter, it’s hard to imagine a garden. A garden with soft, warm soil–soil you can sift through your hands while the warm breezes tickle your neck and the sun threatens sunburn.
It’s hard to imagine little radish leaves peaking out on Friday when you only planted seeds on Monday.
Life seems so barren sometimes in the winter. Eight feet of lake-effect snow on Tug Hill Plateau in New York state and blizzards on the prairie. Cattle dying in the cold, and the threat of flood when the snowdrifts melt.
But spring will come; and when it does, you can grow yourself and grow a garden. The two always go together.
“The ultimate goal of gardening,” said one lecturer years ago, “is not the growing of plants but the cultivation of perfection of people.”
Oh, I guess you could grow a garden just for the product. Just to put food on the table, and flowers in the centre of the table. Yes, I guess you could if you wanted to but you’d be missing most of the joy.
I remember Tuesday nights in the 1970s–in the days before VCRs and taping–when we always had to put everything else on hold to watch “Green Acres” at 8 o’clock.
It’s hard to imagine a poorer garden than that of Oliver Wendell Douglas but Oliver had a dream. And when he stood there in his lawyer suit and vest, pitchfork in hand, and started talking about the little seeds in the ground and the American farmer being the backbone of the country–at that moment, with the fife playing, you knew that Eddie Albert had found the soul of the soil.
And you couldn’t help envying him.
You, too, can find the soul of your garden. And now is the time to begin planning for it. Because a good garden always begins as a dream.
Study the seed catalogues. Find some exotic plants in “Seeds of Change,” or choose an old favourite from Burpees. Make out your order early, and change it if you feel like it.
Sketch out next summer’s garden plan on paper. Or stomp it out in the snow. Try something different. What colours do you want to see? What textures do you want to chew? How do you want to stretch the boundaries of your gardening? And your soul?
And above all, don’t forget to check out some books on gardening from the library. Or buy them for your permanent bookshelf.
This week I discovered two new ones. “Easy Growing: No Stress–No Strain” by Jack Kramer and “Growing myself–a spiritual journey through gardening” by Judith Handelsman. If those two books don’t prime your pump, nothing will.
When it comes to gardening, there should be time for sitting on the ground. Pulling a weed here and there. Sifting the soil, and blowing the dandelions. What every gardener needs is tips on easy growing.
Easy growing helps to open the door, not only to the growing of the garden, but even more, to the growing of the gardener.
“Ask any gardener what he or she loves about gardening,” says Judith Handelsman, “and they will say ‘It’s how it makes me feel.” When pressed, they’ll add it makes them forget their troubles and worries. They get lost in the process. They connect with life’s meaning.
And things begin to seem manageable.
Do you need a better reason for gardening than that? And can you think of a better time to start than now? It’s the only way you can be sure to be ready when spring comes.
Ready to grow a garden–and to grow yourself.

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