As the days grow a little longer and the temperatures begin to flirt with the idea of staying above freezing, my gardening soul grows restless. I feel a need to get my hands in the dirt and order more seeds than I could possibly ever grow. I love my garden. One thing I love about gardening is that as I work, I often find myself making connections to the therapeutic work I do. There is something about open air and plants that leave me feeling connected to the earth, and waxing poetic about my existence on it.
Growth: your priorities vs the weeds
I am caught off guard each spring by the audacity of the weeds in my garden. With no help from me, and often- with quite a bit of resistance from me- there are certain plants that sneak in and try to take over before the winter snow is even fully melted. I’ll find a well developed dandelion with an enormous taproot growing happily in the seam in my driveway, content to be run over by tires and never watered. I’ll find bindweed curling it’s way up another dead perennial in that spot that I can’t seem to get anything to grow but bindweed- and wonder how it manages to make a life where no one else wants to.
In order to not have a garden overrun with weeds, it takes concerted, consistent effort on the gardener’s part. It is so easy to grow weeds, plants that suck the water and nutrients away from the plants you really want to grow.
What are the weeds in your life? What is sucking time and attention away from what you really want to develop? What are the beautiful plants you strive to cultivate in life? What special conditions might they need in order to properly grow?
Pests: do I spray at the first sign of aphids or wait till it’s overrun?
I tend to love all things old-fashioned, and roses are no exception. The roses really are the pride of my garden. I labor over them, deadheading, trimming, and checking constantly for the dastardly aphid. Aphids are tiny little soft bodied insects that come along out of seemingly nowhere and suck the life out of the leaves of roses. They transmit disease and cause all kinds of problems, from cosmetic to life threatening. Conveniently for them, they are also the color of rose leaves, so you have to be on guard to catch them before they wreak their havoc.
As soon as I see an aphid, I spring into action. I gather my organic neem oil and dilute it to the correct concentration and go to war eradicating the tiny green enemy. I’d never wait until the rosebush was on the verge of death before stepping in to help it overcome the aphid. I provide loving and immediate care when the danger is first on the horizon.
In my work, I often talk to people who are hesitant to seek treatment for difficulties they are experiencing. “I know I have a bad relationship with food, but it’s not like I’m totally emaciated, so do I really need treatment?” “Aren’t depressed people xy, and z, and I’m just…. this?”
A gardener would never wait for the plant to be overridden with aphid damage before intervention. A doctor would never wait for the cancer to spread before determining the patient was finally worthy of treatment. When we see the signs of our own wellbeing unraveling, it’s good caregiving of ourselves to take notice and evaluate. We are worthy of care, and sometimes that means we need to pick up the neem oil and get to work. Don’t let the aphids in your life sneak in and get cozy before taking action.
Take time to marvel at the beauty your work is bringing
The garden can take quite a bit of effort, planning, and execution. Blood, sweat and tears- the way all of the best things in life come about. It would all be pretty meaningless without taking time to enjoy the fruits of my labors- so I make sure we eat dinners outside, I read a book in my favorite shady spot, I cut flowers to bring inside and enjoy and we eat the peaches, tomatoes and blackberries at the peak of their perfection. We seek and find beauty.
Life is really no different- we have moments of bloom and sudden growth, times of dormancy and rest. Through it all, we can seek and find beauty. There is the dew on the spring grass. The lazy haze of an afternoon sun on the sea of daisies, the fiery brilliance of an autumn maple- every season brings challenges and unique beauty that we can tune our senses to find.
Whatever season of life you find yourself in, take time to slow down and see the unique beauty of it. It’s there. There is probably an aphid, too. The garden- with it’s beautiful flowers and weeds, sweet fruits of your labors and pests- is a delightful microcosm to learn from.