By Dean Whittaker

This spring I decided it was time a plant a garden. Little did I know how much I would learn about life in the process. Here are ten things my garden is teaching me:

1. Preparation – The need to prepare the soil by loosening it and giving it the nutrition it needs to produce the vegetables I plan to grow. One-year-old horse manure was free at a nearby stable, but I failed to take advantage of the offer to my later regret. The soil in the 12’x16’ community plot is sandy and lacks the means to retain water very long which results in a more frequent need to water.

2. Planning – A successful garden is well planned as I learned from my fellow gardeners as I watched their well-ordered plots flourish as summer approached. A little forethought goes a long way. What and where to plant as well as how various plants get along with each other matters.

3. Growing your own – It takes a long time to grow from seed. Buying ready to blossom plants is faster but much more expensive. Having a long growing season is beneficial, but in my northern climate not an easy option unless I start them indoors. I tried this, but still they lacked the sun to make them strong.

4. Everything is connected – A productive garden is the result of the connection among soil, water (preferably rain), and sun (at least six hours per day), or so I thought. I didn’t realize all the other factors that go into producing a bountiful crop. Many of these factors are invisible to the eye. Nutrition which gives the plant the right combination of minerals it needs to produce a healthy body. Air to give it the carbon dioxide to support photosynthesis. Microbes to re-cycle last year’s material back into usable material by this year’s crop. Talk about a master of sustainability!

5. Timing – Timing is critical to a successful garden. What to plant when. Some plants like the cool spring weather and flourish until the heat of summer arrives and then they go dormant. Others are thrilled with the warmth of the summer sun and longer days.

6. Focus – Paying attention to what matters. Have the potato beetles taken over? How organic do I want to be? Keeping the weeds at bay by hoeing and pulling the unwanted plants that now thrive in the rich, well-watered soil.

7. Paying attention – What I pay attention to grows and what I don’t goes to seed or does not get what it needs to prosper.

8. Sharing – By sharing seeds with my fellow gardeners we can all have a larger variety of plants at minimal cost. There is a seed bucket on the gate were each of us put our surplus seeds. We learn and share knowledge because we have a common goal and interest.

9. Joy – The job of the first produce that was grown from seed is amazing (surprising my spouse too). It is amazing how a tiny seed can grow into something so large by taking CO2 from the air and combining it with minerals from the soil, water from the clouds, and light from the sun. What an amazing system!

10. Patience – Having the patience to invest in the future by planning ahead and preparing for the future produces results.

As I become aware of what the garden has to teach me, I am amazed at the life lessons it contains. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. I wonder what I would have learned if I started a garden as a child.