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There is nothing quite as satisfying as eating a vegetable you have grown yourself. You know the effort and care you have put into that tiny seed, the water you have given it, the light you have ensured it has and the warmth of the nutritious compost, gently pressed around it.
Gardening is what we were made for. We were asked to tend the Garden of Eden and now we can tend our own gardens, tempting new growth from the dust and nurturing it. It is by following the rhythm of nature that we can keep to our own natural rhythms, watching the years go by and feeling at peace with every passing day.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.Genesis 1:29-31 (NIV)
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
In many ways, it doesn’t matter what you grow but growing fruits and vegetables is a wonderful way to share your land with friends and family. Cooking from your own crops is hugely satisfying and often the things you grow taste better too. It’s well known that crops grown in Europe taste better than those grown commercially in the United States as the focus on flavor takes precedence. What does that mean for us? Adopting similar growing techniques will improve your own food flavor too.
So what can you do to cultivate your garden?
Ultimately, gardening is a mixture of 3 things: light, water and nutrients. The lighting determines if your plants will grow or not; the water determines how lush the plants will be; and, the nutrients determine how strong the plant will be. This is why gardeners spend so much time thinking about where to place each crop to ensure that each plant gets everything it needs.
Adding shade to your garden is slightly easier than tempting in the sun, though you could use grow lights if you want to speed your crops up or you are growing plants indoors. Trees are obvious candidates for bringing shade and, if you choose the right sort of canopy, you can ensure that at least some light gets through.
Before you plant anything, plan according to how the light falls. Think about the target height and width of each plant to make sure that once they are all fully grown, each plant has the space and light it needs. Spacing is really important for crops and making the most of your space will maximize the potential of your garden. I LOVE maximizing the yield!
Provide the Right Nutrients
Spacing is also important for sharing the nutrients in your garden. If you plant a huge tree, you will probably struggle to grow anything else unless you put a lot of compost down simply because the tree needs so much!
Luckily, compost is really easy to make. You can use all sorts of kitchen waste to build your compost heap. Read about how you gather vegetable peels, cuttings, scrapings and egg shells as you prepare meals and promptly take to the compost pile or hold in an indoor compost container. Did you know you can add paper products like paper towels and napkins without inks or dyes too?
All you need to do is keep turning the heap and adding organic wastes and you will create lovely, nutrient-rich compost in no time at all. Spread this on your land and your plants will reward you with beautiful foliage and blooms.
Watering your garden is important. If you are cultivating crops, you may not be able to rely on the weather alone to provide the perfect growing conditions. This means that you will need to give your plants a good drenching every so often, especially in the hot, dry summer months when there is little rainfall. An environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to do this is to collect rainwater from your roof during the rainy season and use this source to water your garden when it is hot.
A final word of wisdom on nutrients is actually old knowledge that modern farmers seem to have forgotten. Companion planting is the best way to ensure that every plant gets the nutrients they need without stepping on the toes (or should that be roots?) of other plants. Companion planting is about finding the combinations that work well together and you’ll be pleased to see that planting flowers amongst your more practical crop plants works really well for both species.
Work With the Seasons
The modern world we have built is so demanding of the earth that many crops are forced to grow in unnatural conditions in order to satisfy people’s appetites. This is another reason why produce in Europe is so much better than in the US – the people there are much more in tune with the seasons and are content to wait!
Respecting the seasons is hard when you know how much power you have to influence a plant’s growth but the seasons are there for a reason. Gardening is as much an art as it is a science and only patience will teach you that the best crops are those that grow according to their own calendar and not to yours. Every season brings a new beauty to your garden and learning to appreciate that will bring you peace and calm unlike any other.
When you are vegetable gardening, you will also learn to appreciate the different crops and the different chores each season brings. There is always something to do with your garden, even if you are simply sitting and watching, waiting for a spring flower to push through the snow. Working with the seasons roots you to the ground too and submitting to a yearly timetable feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Cultivating your garden is all about giving love and attention to a tiny patch of land you can call your own. Growing fruits and vegetables is a wonderful way to feed your family and friends and show them your love – even if you are only sprinkling a few herbs onto their meals! Take time in the garden, giving each plant a bit of your love and truly investing your heart in its growth.
As you gain confidence with your gardening skills, why not help your neighbor cultivate a garden? Share your excess crops and swap ingredients, seeds and plants. Your garden can become a community if you let it. What could make you happier? Eating it together!
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Acts 2:46b-47a (NIV)
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