Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The Four W's of Gardening, Part 3
I look at gardening as an educational process. I cannot begin to catalog all of the things I have learned while trying to grow food and flowers. The list would be far, far too long and I’m pretty sure most of you have learned many of the same things, too.
Gardening is a universal activity. People everywhere do it. People do it in rural settings, urban settings, developed countries, developing countries and under-developed countries. Gardening and Stealth Farming are two great activities that can help you overcome the food dependency issue to a greater or lesser degree. It all depends on how far you want to take it. If you want to simply grow some herbs in a windowsill, fine. If you want to supplement your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, fine. If you want to provide all the plant material you need for your family and your livestock, you can do that, too. If you want to grow enough to earn a living selling the surplus, that is certainly possible.
But you have to learn some things.
You have to learn how plants grow, what they need from the soil, how to make sure the soil can support them. You need to learn what plants will grow where you are, what conditions are necessary for their survival and maturation and how to harvest, store and use them. These and a thousand other things are necessary to be successful, but don’t let the list and the potential list scare you off. You learn most of these by doing and watching.
Whenever you are in your garden or Stealth Farm, you look at some things. You look at the weather, the sky to see what is in store for your plants. You feel the wind and see it as it brushes your plants. You see the sway of the trees, the plants and the grasses. You notice the color changes and the texture changes and the size changes.
You smell things. You smell the dust, the fragrance of the plants and flowers. You smell the oncoming rain. You smell the tomato plants as they grow in the sun.
You listen to the wind as it spreads the corn pollen. You hear the buzz of the bees and other insects as they flit around and do their work for you. You smile as you hear the birds in the trees and flying through the air. You pause and watch when you hear the hummingbirds dart from flower to flower.
You touch the soil as you press your fingers into it to test the moisture content. You touch the fuzz on the peach as you test to see if it is ripe yet. You feel the smoothness of the apple or the bumpiness of the squash or the prickles of the vines. You feel the heft of the branches laden with fruit.
Gardening is a sensual experience. You can’t get this level of involvement in an isolated cab high atop a noisy combine. Tractor jockeys are rarely this physically involved with their crops. This is the ideal level of interaction because you can almost instantly see how what you do affects things.
All of these things teach you. If you pay attention to them, they will show you what they want, what they need and what they will give you. By watching, observing and being involved in the grand operation as it unfolds before you season after season and year after year, you will gain an education that can never be obtained in a classroom.
Some day, I’ll have to write about the spiritual side of gardening….
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