“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. “~ May Sarton
It all started a few summers ago. We were at our little summer house in Seattle and needed to find some community service opportunities for our fourth grader. She attends a school in Houston which requires a certain number of service hours per year (which we LOVE), and up to this point, we had exhausted her with ‘cleaning the lost & found closet, helping teachers after school, volunteering at day camps’ ~ we needed another option.
The beauty of Seattle is that most neighborhoods have their own community p-patch, where neighbors can rent a plot and cultivate their own gardens (the waiting list is years). I immediately called the director to see if Betsy could volunteer to weed, water, or do whatever else was needed. But something even better happened. The director invited us all (even our twin 6-year olds) to a weekly Monday night harvest party~ where volunteers from the neighborhood would work together to tend to the raised beds and work on the many beds dedicated to producing fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for the local food bank.
Our Monday evenings quickly became our favorite evening of the week! The excitement of pulling up a beautiful beet quickly overshadowed the fact that we were all actually doing work.
Over the course of six weeks, we learned about the benefits of raised beds, composting, companion crops, pest and weed control and even rabbit control. We were poked by thorns, covered in band-aids and had the dirtiest nails in all the land. While the work was satisfying, the real magic was happening inside our hearts and minds.
Digging in the soil proved to be extremely therapeutic. Perhaps it’s a closer connection to the earth, or maybe it was because it was just a simple, beautiful experience. There were no cell phones, no texts, no emails to worry about. It was just a time to feel grounded and let our minds work out whatever they needed to that day. It was a soulful experience, which left us all feeling tired, happier, and calmer at the end of our shift.
When summer ended and we returned to Houston, we all missed tending to the gardens. The real seeds had been planted in us~ to attempt our own raised bed gardening in a completely different climate. And so, here we are. We’ve installed NINE garden beds, each measuring 4’ x 6’. We just had our first fall & winter harvest and didn’t expect much, but were completely blown away when we produced more collard greens, swiss chard, bok choy, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, beets and broccoli than we knew what to do with!
The thrill of planting something that starts as a delicate little seed is watching it grow and knowing that YOU made that happen. It’s amazing, really. It’s so simple, but so rewarding.
Our goal is to have a massive garden that will produce (almost) year round, with several beds dedicated to our local food bank. I picture a greenhouse, fruit trees and a section dedicated just to herbs. Our black thumbs have in fact, turned green. And while we still expect to have plenty of fails (like the artichoke plant that is completely massive yet shows no signs of actually producing an artichoke), those are learning experiences that we can all benefit from.
In a world where everything revolves around immediate gratification (Alexa, give me the answer! Instacart, delivery my groceries! Amazon, bring me my paper towels on the double!), it’s nice to slow down…. plant some seeds… and let them develop into something amazing in their own time.
Kind of like raising children.
Jen McDonald lives in Houston, TX with her husband, two dogs and three Garden Girls. She is currently enrolled in The Kitchen Garden Coach Society, founded by Nicole Burke of Rooted Garden and Gardenary and can’t wait to share everything she’s learning with our readers. Jen and family are currently planting melons, radishes, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins and are about to experiment with vertical gardening! Follow along on her adventures at www.instagram.com/jenmcdhome
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