Gardening: Spring a gateway to goodness

By Sarah O'Neil

The garden offers more than nourishment and exercise for your body. It can also feed your soul.
The garden offers more than nourishment and exercise for your body. It can also feed your soul.

Without wanting to cast gardening in a negative light, spring can be a bit of hard work.

There is all the digging and weeding to be done in order to get the beds ready to receive the green occupants of a new season.

Gardeners are even prepared to handle the odd barrow load of well-rotted manure to ensure the health and well being of their plants.

This is all generally conducted in cold conditions, between showers and whatever else the bitter early spring weather will throw out there.

But if you put a positive spin on it, not only is the garden being prepared for an abundant harvest, but the sluggish winter body is whipped into shape in preparation for summer attire.

Aside from the effort of preparing the garden, there is a great deal of care and cosseting that goes into creating the occupants, lovingly from seed.

The nurturing requires frequent attention, making sure they are well watered, but not too wet and certainly not too dry.

Always checking - are they warm enough, do they have enough light? Are they getting too big for their pots?

Spring, while being a little hard work and possibly a little time-consuming, if you allow it, is a gateway to something truly wonderful.

Once the last sod of earth is finally turned and the tender green plants have taken their position in the sun, you can stand back, stop and look around at all you have achieved.

In that moment of completion you can allow yourself to have a sense of pride. Gardens don't happen overnight and definitely not by accident. It is the culmination of intentional effort and will provide rewards across a season.

The fruits of your labour - the fresh tomatoes still warm from the sun; the bounty of zucchini - enough for an entire neighbourhood; beans so fresh the flavour is incomparable to anything else, capsicum so crisp it sounds like slicing into an apple when you cut it up - I could go on.

Growing your own food, eaten minutes old, is a reward in itself and generally the purpose of all that toil.

However, the garden offers more than nourishment and exercise for your body. It can also feed your soul.

In the busy-ness of life it is often difficult to find the time or the excuse to slow down.

Racing about in the morning to get the family out the door; spending time in rush-hour traffic, where the only rushing really going on in your head as you become anxious you'll be late; shuffling kids about the place to after-school activities; dinner preparations in the face of hungry mouths; and finally you flop exhausted into bed at the end of the day.

Life normally operates at full speed and it can become relentless.

A garden can provide solace from all of this. Nothing in a garden can be hurried, it operates on nature's time and to in order to fully appreciate what you have created you need to tune into the pace of the garden.

Coming home at the end of a hard day and picking up a hose and rehydrating your garden in an unhurried fashion, you can feel the stress fall away.

Focusing on the immediate needs of the garden almost makes time stand still.

Gently reaching down to pull out a small weed to maintain an orderly bed, can create a sense of satisfaction.

Just being in the presence of the garden can do something undefinable that calms the mind and lifts the spirit.

In particular, this stage of the year is a window of calm.

Behind us is the effort of creating the garden and in front of us is the chaos of the festive season which coincides with the start of the abundant harvest.

But right now a garden is a breath of fresh air and while it isn't demanding our attention, it does call to us to come and just be among its verdant greenery.

With the lengthening evenings, pull up a chair and take the time to just sit and be still.

Notice the tiny flowers forming, the way the breeze dances through the corn.

Watch a spider weave her web or just stare out over the vista you have created.

Being mindful in a garden, present in the moment can restore and refresh you and help you to unwind and relax from the pressures of modern living.

Sarah O'Neil is an author, blogger and passionate gardener.
sarahthegardener.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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