I have always lived near gardens and green spaces. I grew up in a house in the country with a large yard, surrounded by acres of forest. When I was in university I had my tiny dorm room filled with more plants than should have been possible. And our house today is still filled with dozens of plants and our yard is filled with gardens – vegetable gardens, flower gardens, shade gardens, sun gardens.
It’s the time of year when the gardens are at their best. Summer’s hot, dry weather hasn’t arrived yet (mostly, despite a week of July-like temperatures we just passed through), and the plants are still lush and green. The leaves have all come out, and the lilacs and hawthorns are in full bloom. And we’ve also been starting to plant our vegetable garden, a sure sign of spring in the cycle of planting and harvesting on our small patch of land.
Unlike most of the flower gardens, the vegetable garden is behind a tall fence to protect it from the deer. On the other side of the fence, we have six raised beds, two rows of raspberries, and three blueberry bushes, as well as a narrow garden that runs along the inside of the fence. Strawberries and most of the vegetables grow in the raised beds, while peas, runner beans, and tomatoes (as well as many flowers) grow along the fence. Things are slowly taking shape in the garden, even though much of the growth is still below ground. Over a month ago, we planted lettuce plants and radish seeds. That seemed early to me, but we covered the plants with a remay cloth, a thin white cloth that lets light and water in but protects the plants from mild frosts (in the photo above, you can see the cloth still folded up at the back). It worked out well, because now we have a garden filled with lush lettuces and radishes. We’ve already eaten the first lettuce from our garden, and the radishes will be ready soon.
We’ve been planting seeds lately: carrots (my favourite), kale (something new for this year), green beans, scarlet runner beans, snap peas, Swiss chard. We started Green Zebra, Grub’s Mystery Green, and Black Cherry tomatoes from seed in the house when the weather was cool, and we’ve now planted most of them out in the garden. Although it’s possible for us to get frost well into May, temperatures, as I mentioned earlier, have been warm lately, so we’re taking the chance that it will be safe. Last year we got a bad hail storm at the end of July that seriously damaged most of our tomato plants, so we didn’t get many tomatoes last year. This year we’re hoping for a better harvest!
Willowcrow recently wrote a post about gardens as sanctuaries and the lessons of growth, harvest, and peace that they can teach us. I agree that gardens can be inspiring, even magical places. While there are many physical and environmental reasons to grow a garden – to grow your own food, to reduce your reliance on imported fruits and vegetables, or to provide habitat for native wildlife, for example – tending a garden is also one of the few occasions when the average person engages in a direct, meaningful, and beneficial relationship with nature. The garden is, in a way, a very liminal space, where the human and the more-than-human meet and become something larger, something that is more than just the sum of its parts. Working or simply spending time in a garden brings us out of ourselves and into relationship with the natural processes of growth, harvest, and decay. The garden also reminds us that we have a role in those processes, and that we can have an influence on the environment around us. It reminds us that we are connected to the rest of life, and that we are never alone.
I cannot imagine living without some kind of garden or greenery in my environment. I look forward to having my own garden one day, but for now, I love to spend time in the family garden. In the garden, I can let go of most of my worries about my life, and simply be.
What’s growing in your garden? What do you love about gardens and gardening?