THE PLACE - A garden is a place where seeds and plants are nurtured into mature vegetables and flowers. A garden can be any size from a potted plant in the window , a raised bed in the yard or a larger plot.
THE PERSON - Gardeners tend the garden; they plant, nurture and harvest. They can be any age, size or skill level. They can be a first timer to a seasoned gardener who eagerly returns often to get her or his hands in the dirt.
THE POWER - Together the garden gives place for gardeners to grow interest, knowledge, skills and relationships among other gardeners.
My experiences, as a gardener, have impacted my life in many ways physically, emotionally and spiritually. My father was an avid gardener, so from a young age our garden was a big part of my life. My earliest garden memories are of taking a break from play to sneak a little snack from the garden. Raw vegetables are great snacks you can eat anytime, anywhere. Tomatoes, carrots and strawberries were some of my favorites. A quick wash with the garden hose and I had a delicious feast. As I got older, my daddy began to educate my siblings and me on how to care for the garden. Gardening is hard work that is great exercise for the body and the mind.
I remember learning to plant and grow green beans. He gave me a stick about two inches long to make a hole in the ground. Another stick was used to measure the distance between the holes. I would drop a seed in the ground and cover it with dirt. The garden was quite big or at least it seemed to be. I know that my row was very, very long. That made it all the more enjoyable to see the many seeds sprout and become a beautiful line of new plants.
The care of the plant was very important. I learned to hoe around the plant, keep bugs off the leaves and water when necessary. I also learned to pull weeds. My father stressed this point and explained to me the importance of no weeds in the bean row. The bean plant needed all the nutrients from the soil. We didn’t want to share any of the fertile goodness of the earth with weeds. It would then become a strong, healthy plant that would produce many beans. After caring for the plants for the first part of the summer, I began to notice the plants were putting on little blooms. As the blooms would fall, in their place were miniature beans. It was a miracle! I will always remember the excitement in that moment thinking I had helped grow a bean. Soon we were harvesting them and enjoying the reward. Eating the delicious green beans was the celebration that I had grown this crop and the garden had grown me.
That summer I learned a part of the process of gardening and my part in the process. The more I garden, the more it becomes a part of me. Gardening has given me a greater appreciation of the nature that is just beyond your doorstep and God’s creation that is full of adventure. It has given me perseverance, patience, the desire to eat healthy and a strong work ethic. Most important to me it has given me memories and relationships that grow as I garden together with others.
In the senior years of my mother and father’s life, they came to live with my family. We had a large garden. My father was the mentor and patriarch of the garden. In his eighties, we would take walks together in the garden. He used a cane – he said it was to help him walk. I think it was really a stick to point-out things to me. He would find cucumbers that were hiding and needed to be picked. He would examine the corn that was soon to be harvested. And – with that cane he would pull back thick clusters of leaves shading the row to reveal perfectly plump green beans that needed to be picked soon --- like in the morning!
I am the mentor now. What a privilege I have had to garden with my father, husband, children, grandchildren and now my great-grandchildren. From generation to generation, gardens indeed grow gardeners. Find a place and get growing.
1. Join with others to DESIGN YOUR GARDEN. Their isn’t necessarily any right or wrong way to do the layout although you can do research and learn many design techniques that yield different results. Over the years you’ll discover design practices that work best for your garden. 2. In addition to shared or common space you can section SMALL MICRO-GARDEN AREAS for individuals to develop and tend. This creates an opportunity for more personal ownership, some fun competition and offers a chance for individuals to explore different plants and gardening practices. Most importantly it gives everyone the chance to encourage each other. 3. Incorporate a CENTRAL REST AREA AND GATHERING PLACE in your garden area. This can include a grill or campfire space, a canopy for shade, a cooler for water, comfortable chairs and even a relaxing water feature. This is a place to take a break while working and later come together to relax, eat, sing, tell stories and grow as gardeners. 4. Bring your cameras and journals and ANNUALY DOCUMENT YOUR GARDEN. Doing this is very practical when planning for future growing seasons. You’ll capture the gardeners working together, the joys and frustrations and the harvest. 5. INVITE POTENTIAL GARDENERS from beyond your close group. Have you considered who may enjoy the experience? Urban youth, adults from a senior center, families from church, members of a recovery program, participants in a group exercise or dieting program are just a few examples of the many individuals that can discover spiritual and physical growth in the garden.

Gretchen Bloom is the Gardening Department Editor for Faith & Fitness Magazine. She is the director at La Campagne Ministries in Spencer, Indiana. CONTACT US to schedule her to share about gardening at your church, gym or community gathering.

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