Gardening, in a lot of ways, is a microcosm for life. Many of the lessons learned in the garden have a very real application in the larger world. Allow me the pleasure of being your Buddha with a broad fork, your Plato with a pitchfork, and let’s get deep with some gardening philosophy. Let’s look at three ways that gardening is just like life.
YOU NEED TO BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION BEFORE YOU START TO SEE RESULTS.
We live in a quick fix, magic pill society. TV commercials promise 6 minute abs, get-rich-quick schemes, and pills guaranteed to fix all of your problems and make you happy (never mind those pesky side effects!). We expect (nay, demand!) that what we want should come quick and easily.
This same mentality is often displayed by first-time gardeners. They figure they’ll buy some pretty flowers, put in a month or two of work, and by autumn they’ll be blessed with the garden of their dreams.
Those who subscribe to this mentality– both in life and in the garden- are often disappointed by the results. The wiser of us have realized a fundamental truth about life- that a strong foundation must be built before we see the results we want.
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In gardening, this means creating a strong, rich, durable soil. The secret to gardening is that 90% of it is creating the right soil. If your soil is strong, you will be able to grow just about anything. If your soil is weak, growing even the simplest plants will be a struggle. And creating a truly great soil can often take years.
Some of the qualities of a strong soil:
It is Rich in Nutrients
A strong soil is well supplied with these 13 essential nutrients:
- Primary nutrients: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) Potassium (K) (needed in large amounts)
- Secondary nutrients: Sulfur (S), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) (needed in smaller amounts)
- Micronutrients: Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), Molybdenum (Mo), Chlorine (Cl) (needed in trace amounts)
The best way to supply your soil with these nutrients is to consistently feed it composted organic material. Having a compost heap is a must for keeping your garden strong and healthy.
It Has Good Water Retention and Aeration
A good soil is able to hold onto water, and allows air to pass through it easily. Again, the best way to improve these qualities is by consistently adding composted materials.
It Has the Right pH Balance
A good soil needs the right pH balance. This usually means around a 7, although some plants prefer slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soils. If your soil is too acidic, add ground lime. If your soil is too alkaline, add sulphur or aluminum sulphate. Test kits are available at most garden centers.
Build a solid foundation for your garden, starting with the soil, and you will get the results you want over the long term.
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” -Saint Augustine
DON’T FIGHT NATURE. GO WITH THE FLOW.
Another valuable life lesson learned from gardening is that you have to go with the flow, not fight against it. Too often novice gardeners have a vision in their heads of how things should be, without factoring in the realities of their environment. Sometimes this comes up when they are getting started, and sometimes it comes up as resistant to change.
A few years back, my Mum had gorgeous yellow Texas climbing roses that grew up along a fence. The neighbors next door had a young pine tree, and the day came where it grew large enough that it cast a permanent shadow over the roses for a large portion of the day. The flowers withered and died.
My Mum spent the next 3-4 summers trying to salvage her roses, but to no avail. The environment had changed. Much wasted time, effort and suffering could have been avoided if she had just let them go.
Some questions to ask yourself about your potential plants:
- Do they fit the climate and temperature of your environment?
- Will they receive enough sunlight?
- Will they receive enough water?
- Will the soil be appropriate for them?
- Will they fit with the other plants and animals in the environment?
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu
A GARDEN IS LIKE A RELATIONSHIP. MAINTENANCE AND PERSEVERANCE ARE THE KEY IN THE LONG RUN.
A garden is a lot like a relationship. It can start off all fun and exciting, but that lustre will eventually wear off. Success over the long term is all about consistent maintenance and perseverance, putting in the work even when you don’t want to.
When you plant Irises and Day Lilies, you will get a beautiful yield for the first 2 to 3 years, with minimal effort. It will all seem so easy. Then, a weird thing happens. Bulbs will start to overlap. The plants will overcrowd each other. The flowers will weaken, opening the door for pests and weeds to take over. Things will fall apart, leaving you to wonder what happened.
Such it is with relationships. We are given an early window where things are easy, but if consistent effort isn’t put into them, they will wither and die over the long run. With flowers, this means splitting them regularly, maintaining the soil and getting rid of weeds. With relationships… well, that is a much more complicated topic for another day.
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ― Martin Luther
There are many lessons to be learned in the garden. It takes hard work before you start to see results. You need to go with the flow. You need to persevere over the long term. All of these lessons can be applied to life outside of the garden bed.
So get out there and start planting! You’ll have to sift through a lot of dirt, but if you work hard you’ll have time to smell the flowers.
Guest post by Rambo Moe who blogs at Prepared For That.
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