Nearly every morning, at least one of our crew (myself included) darts to the back door of our kitchen, peeking out into our small-ish, formerly-boring suburban backyard, anxious to check the progress of our little plants. All last winter, I threw squash guts and seeds over the back deck, hoping they’d sprout. They did! Luscious, giant leaves now spread beneath the deck, along the house behind my raised bed garden box, hiding growing squash of various varieties. The raised bed is on its second “crop” of the summer, now sporting baby onions, cauliflower, and peppers. The patch of dirt that we accidentally created with a kiddie pool I bought last summer for sunning now houses tomato plants and dying hopes for cucumber, in the form of bunny-nibbled stubs and yellowing leaves. This is the life of gardening with kids (and a wanna-be-green-thumb-mama).
Once upon a time in my parenting past, I cultivated a little patch of dirt in a cooperative 4H garden, with the attentive aid of the master gardeners and our 4H representative. I felt successful as, baby-strapped-to-my-back, I knelt with my little ones and followed careful instructions for nurturing our little plot. Now, we fly solo as we tend to our little patch of sod, attempting to add new little bits of life with each spring and each garden-shop-sale. I’m not a natural gardener, but I’m trying hard, and I’m determined to carve out a pretty plot surrounded by our neighborly white fence. It gives us all daily joy to see plants working hard to live and grow, and to pick a tomato or zucchini off the vine! I never get over the miracle of life, so vividly illustrated in our growing garden.
I realized this summer that in our little plot of suburbia, we’re learning some real lessons about life, and I thought I would share what I’m learning from gardening with kids.
Sharing is Important.
We discovered with glee this year that there’s actually a “sneak a zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch” day. Who knew? But can I tell you the giggles we shared as we covertly delivered our little green gifts? And how spoiled rotten we are that our neighbors returned the gift with sun-warmed heirloom tomatoes and spanish peppers a few days later?
Teamwork is Necessary.
I’m awful at watering. Just awful. But my gracious husband rarely forgets, and if he does, our middle son is willing to go check on, and water, our plants. If we didn’t work together, we’d lose our fledgling plants, and we’d have nothing to show for our efforts. In the same way, real life requires the help of others. Sometimes I need help as a mom, a writer, a ministry helper, and I have to call on others to share of their time and gifts. I can’t do it alone (nor do I want to!).
Critters Want to Steal the Bounty.
I’ve waged war this summer against the (yes, cute, but evil-intentioned) bunnies, ground-hogs, Japanese beetles and even the non-animal enemies of rust and mold. It’s no simple feat beating back the pests, who want to devour our good crop. My heart has an enemy too, in the form of time-wasting, spiritual battles, lack of focus, and tons of distractions to steal my creative and mental energy. It takes constant upkeep to “stay the course” and be diligent to my calling.
Sweating Is a Good Thing.
I hate to be out of breath, and I hate to sweat. Just being real. But I have learned that if I’m going to create a magical little wonderland of pretty flowers or edible veggies, sometimes I’m going to have to roll up my sleeves, get dirt under my nails, and work for it. In the same way, if I want to grow as a woman, a wife, a mama, a friend… I have to work. It’s worth it.
Speaking of squash and gardening, I shared with Allrecipes a favorite fall soup recipe, Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Soup, in case you’d like to watch the video and make your own!
When there’s dirt under the nails, and the sun’s beating down on your sweaty head, and the aroma of herbs and veggies is drifting up from the warm beds, it seems you get a sweeter picture of just how precious is the creation we live in. It’s no accident… it’s a beautifully articulated, purposefully planned work of art. Do you garden? Have any tips to share?
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