I got all of my herbs into the planter box on the deck this week. The basil is not doing well, and many of my friends have echoed the same lament. Basil was my best grower last year, so I am hoping it turns around. My go-to guy at the garden center said it has been too wet for it this spring and that as soon as it gets hot and dries out a bit it will be fine. I hope he is right. My other problem child in the herb garden is cilantro. It keeps falling over. If anyone has experience with cilantro I would love to hear what I am doing wrong and how to fix it!
I was gazing out the window, trying to decide if I should go out to my little 4×4 foot square garden just one more time to see if anything had miraculously grown or bloomed in the last 3 hours. I was thinking, I wish they would grow faster! when it hit me: I am just as impatient with my garden plants as I have been with my own personal growth. That got me thinking about the lessons that gardening can teach us wherever we are on our journey of development as human beings. Here are a few I came up with:
Lessons I am learning from my garden:
- Be patient when looking for visible signs of growth. Even with the optimal amount of sunshine, rain, and fertilizer, plants can only grow in the correct season and at their own slow and steady pace. They must develop strong root systems, which we cannot see, before they can support large stems and leaves and heavy fruit. We may not be able to see the small increments of growth each day, but as the days and weeks add up, the growth is clearly evident. I must give them their time, and give myself my own time to grow in the areas of life I am trying to improve right now.
- Bask in the sunshine. For those who live in sunnier climates, this lesson may sound trite, but Clevelanders and many others in the northern U. S. simply don’t get enough sunshine for a large portion of the year. When it is sunny I take advantage of it and get my vitamin D each day by going out for about 20 minutes without sunscreen, then applying SPF 30 or higher religiously at all other times. Sunshine always improves my mood and outlook on life.
- Get enough water. Think of what your plants look like when they get parched. They get wilted and the leaves hang listlessly from the stalk, but as soon as water is added they plump back up and stand proud! This one is especially tough for me, but on the days that I sip my water continuously all day, I feel much more awake and alert. Also, it keeps me more active as I have to keep traveling to the rest room to de-water before I can re-water some more! Last summer I discovered Ball’s water infuser kit for their wide-mouth jars. It includes a lid with a seal and an infusing attachment. I much prefer to drink out of glass than plastic, so I love this gadget. My favorite infusing recipe is to combine chopped cucumbers with chopped fresh basil leaves. I use the Ball herb scissors to get the basil leaves cut into thin little ribbons.
- Live in the fresh air. Plants can, of course, grow indoors–but they do not do so naturally. What I love about being outside more than anything else is the fresh air. I have run in the freezing, pouring October rain not because I am a dedicated athlete but because I desperately needed to be outside and breathe the fresh air. And while breathing in the fresh air, I invariably begin to notice the other sights and sounds and smells of being out in nature, which maybe plants notice and maybe they don’t, but I talk to mine anyway just in case they do. Listening to and watching the birds always reminds me of mornings at my grandma’s house, and I would rather have to take allergy medicine than miss the amazing and mysterious smells of the flowering blooms in spring and summer.
- Roots must grow strong to bear fruit. Underground is where the real action happens in gardening. The soil must be rich and re-fertilized from time to time to add new nutrients for the plants to absorb. The roots must have room to spread out and grow deep. Bugs and other micro-organisms do their part to aerate the soil and make it good for plants. So it is in my life as well. While my roots are going deep into my psyche and soaking up the richness of life–by reading, gardening, walking, doing yoga, or any other activity that feeds my soul–it may look to others like I am doing nothing. I need time to grow and spread my roots before any visible sign of growth–that is “fruit” in the form of writing or other creative productivity–appears above ground. Once I have had enough nutrients and enough time to process them, I will begin to bear blossoms and soon heavy fruit. But all in good time.
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