An Adventure into Backyard Gardening
by Linda W. Rooks
Several months ago, when we suddenly found ourselves confined within the walls of our home with just our families, many of us discovered untapped possibilities in our own backyards. Not only was it a place to breathe fresh air and have a cookout, but with the anxiety of empty shelves at the grocery store, some of our frequently ignored flower beds and barren pieces of earth stood out as new opportunities to provide for our own nutritional needs by planting a garden.
Although working in my yard and garden has been a favorite—but not always successful—pastime for years, when the pandemic began, I joined new throngs of people tiptoeing into the joys and challenges of vegetable gardening.
Recently, as I peeled off lettuce leaves for our salad and discovered not one, but five, green peppers growing on one of my pepper plants, I finally felt the joy of success.
The challenges can sometimes be discouraging, but for those of us who persevere, the reward of eating from our own gardens can put a happy smile on our face. During my adventure into gardening, I’ve learned some basic principles that can bring us a positive outcome.
Timing is very important in planning a vegetable garden. I’ve unfortunately learned this through my own mistakes by sometimes waiting too late and at other times starting too early. For any particular vegetable, different parts of the country are ready for planting season at different times. Last fall, for instance, I made the mistake of planting my romaine lettuce while it was still too hot. As a result of starting too soon, I only had a short time of using it for salads before it flowered and bolted.
Sunshine is important for a vegetable garden too. Most vegetables need at least six hours of sun to produce their best. Picking out a sunny spot should be one of your first steps.
Deciding on What to Plant
Spices and herbs add flavor and even nutrition to our daily diets and are some of the easiest edibles to grow. My favorite is a mint plant in the pot outside my kitchen door. I use it for making mint iced tea, a refreshing treat in our hot Florida summers. It’s easy to make by simply adding several mint leaves along with three tea bags into a teapot, then pouring steaming hot water over it to let it steep. For those of us who like it sweetened, we can add a little sugar at this point too. After a length of time, when it’s nice and dark, I pour it into a pitcher half-full of ice, and I’m ready for my first delightful sip.
Other seasonings like parsley add real zip to a number of recipes. Oregano not only enhances spaghetti sauce and other dishes with tons of flavor but also offers a lovely scent as it spreads throughout the garden bed in a profusion of downy plume. Popular seasoning choices also include basil, dill, sage, rosemary, and chives. Picking out the herbs and spices used most frequently in your cooking is probably a logical place to start.
Some of the easiest vegetables to grow are eggplant and collard greens. However, by doing some research on how to carry out your planting, you can experience success with other veggies as well, such as peppers, different varieties of lettuce, broccoli, and tomatoes. Different climates work best for different kinds of veggies, so look to see what’s available in your local nursery.
Preparing the soil and understanding the specific needs of each vegetable brings the best likelihood of success. For instance, while green peppers should not be over-fertilized and should not be planted near leafy plants, lettuce needs to be planted in loose soil a week after a good amount of organic matter or manure has been added. Because of their different needs, it’s worth a little extra time to go online or ask someone at the garden center for planting tips.
Discovering the Health Benefits
Not only are the fresh vegetables we pick from our gardens good for our health but also the very act of gardening itself is beneficial to our wellbeing.
Scientific research shows big health advantages for our bodies, brains, and emotional health when we spend time in nature. And in stressful situations, an hour or two in the outdoors provides a natural calming and relaxing influence. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, it can even increase longevity.
God created the earth to be our home. It’s a perfect match for our needs in every way—not only to provide for our physical needs but also as a soothing and healing balm for our mental and emotional ones as well. Our heavenly Father knows what we need before we do. And the luscious blues of the skies, plus the greens and multi-colored hues we find in our backyards, are gifts from Him to calm our spirits and give us a taste of His loving care.
When we plant vegetables in our backyards, we are partaking of God’s plan to nourish us. We are entering in to see the wonder of new life emerging from tiny seeds or sprigs. And when the leaves begin to multiply and buds begin to form, we see the miracle of God’s creation. For me, it also gives me a few quiet moments to spend personal time with God, listening for His voice as I dabble in nature and lift my eyes to the wonder of His handiwork.
Gardening as a whole, and vegetable gardening in particular, brings new understanding and appreciation for God’s creation and His loving provision for our needs.
Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her award-winning book, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated, and her earlier book, Broken Heart on Hold, walk with those in the midst of marital breakdown to bring hope and practical guidance to those desiring reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family, HomeLife, and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida where she enjoys spending time in her garden to take part in God’s handiwork and see things grow.
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