Natural Living: A Garden of Abundance

I have been growing food now for over a decade, and a few years ago, gardening saved my life.  

I don't mean that it literally saved my life, but figuratively.

I had just gotten a new raised bed into place, everyone told me I was doing it too early, but I figured it didn't hurt anything since the weather was starting to get nice.  I will forever be thankful I had done it.

In April, I got really sick.  Like really really sick.  Was in the ER for about 16 hours, only to end up in emergency surgery.

Everything changed.

My life, that had seemed so full of opportunity and growth, suddenly screeched to a halt.  I couldn't exercise, lift anything over 5 pounds, stand for long periods of time, or even sit for long periods of time.  Car rides were horribly painful, so traveling was out entirely.  I became horribly depressed about everything, even though I tried to put on a brave face.

A couple weeks later, it was the normal time that I would start planting in the garden.  I didn't even want to do that. I couldn't guarantee that I would be able to even go and shop for plants.  I didn't want to have to try to take care of them and keep them alive... when I was barely living myself.

A good friend said to me, "You need a distraction, and you need to eat. The garden will fulfill both of those needs."  And then they put me in the car and drove me to the greenhouse.

We picked out tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans.  A few herbs. Simple items that could be used in a variety of ways and be fairly easy for me to handle.  They got me a kneeling pad so I could be more comfortable on the ground.

They came back and helped me put everything in the ground, and they did most of that initial planting.... and then it was up to me.

Every morning, when I'd be fighting discomfort and depression, there was a new fleeting thought:
"I wonder how the garden looks this morning"
And I would go out and inspect all the plants and walk among the greenery, watering what needed it, adjusting trellises, and picking stray weeds.

Over the weeks that followed, I started thinking less about how terrible everything was, and instead more about how much food I might get from the garden, was I doing everything I could to make it healthy and prolific?

It gave me a purpose outside myself.

And when it started producing, it was like it was giving back all the love that I had given to it.  Pounds of beautiful red, ripe tomatoes, beans by the basket, giant cucumbers and fragrant herbs.

It nourished my body and my spirit, and made me feel like I could make it through all of this.  

At the end of the summer, I had a follow up surgery to complete what they had started in April.  The garden kept producing throughout my recovery and, as if it knew I would be ok, started dying back just when I was feeling better.  It gave me a few last good harvests and I cleaned it out in late October.

I continue to grow my garden every year, but I think my perspective on it has changed.  It is no longer just about growing food, but about providing myself an outlet, a place of peace and relaxation, and through that, caring for my body and mind.

It is about this time of year that I start plotting my garden for the summer. I'll start seeds in early February - March, which means I need to pick out what I am going to tend to this year.

Here are my preliminary thoughts:

Left to Right, top to Bottom:

Purple Galaxy Tomato, Dad's Sunset Tomato, Rainbow Swiss Chard
Cosmic Purple Carrots, Cayenne Pepper, St. Valery Carrot
Tom Jalapeno Peppers, Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato, Chinese Green Long Bean
Black Krim Tomato, Sugar Bon Snap Peas, Bull's Blood Beets

All seeds are from my favorite seed site, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
(And no, I'm not being paid to promote them, I've shopped from them for years for strange varieties of vegetables and fruits. They have a great germination rate and the fruits are always well worth it!)

I'll be bringing you all along on my gardening journey this year - hoping that  I can finally have a successful year with the greenhouse, but we will have to see!