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lessons from the garden, chapter 1

June 18, 2008

“Preparing the Soil”

My mom used to have a cute little wall hanging in her house that said, “I’m closer to God in my garden than anywhere else on earth.” (If you started to make a theological argument in your head when you read that, you need to take a deep breath before reading further.)

I (dramatic pause) have a garden. My dad killed a patch of grass in our back yard, and last Saturday my wonderful husband tilled it up. I’ve had many blissful hours since then in the patch of dirt that was left behind.

And you know how it is hanging out with Jesus: everything becomes an object lesson. So here we go.

Well, wait. Before we begin allow me to explain some Christian jargon to any non-Christians who may be reading. Jesus liked to compare the Word of God (the written one and the words Jesus spoke day after day) to a seed. Because He’s good with analogies, He, then, commonly referred to our hearts as the soil said seed was planted in to bring forth gorgeous plants and delicious foods (i.e. peace, love, joy, kindness, patience, etc.). K? So there’s an unspoken moral to this silliness.

Here we go. What I learned about myself while starting a garden:

1. It’s much harder to start a new garden than to start a new season in the garden that my mom has been cultivating for years. A lot harder, and for obvious reasons.

2. It’s impossible to till up live grass. It’s simply too resilient. Sometimes things are perfectly normal and perfectly fine need to die so you can get to good soil.

3. It’s still hard to till up dead grass. God bless my wonderful husband. He tilled and raked and tilled and raked and then I think tilled a third time. Just getting to fresh soil, where a seed can be safely planted, is half the battle.

And it needs to be done way ahead of time. You can’t chose the day you want to plant and go out that day to kill the grass. The grass took a week to die and tilling it up took most of the morning. If the soil hadn’t been prepared ahead of time, the seed wouldn’t grow.

4. Doing your best means you will get dirty. Despite all the labor that had already gone into it, I spent a day and a half on my knees, digging up the dirt with my hands and a small garden spade. The garden might have grown alright if I hadn’t, but I really got down to the good dirt.


5. Purity is key/anything can be a weed. If I say “weed” you think – well, alright, some of you think of drugs but past that – of dandelions and thistles. In a cultivated garden, though, anything besides what is planted is a weed. The grass that was normal – even necessary – a few weeks ago is now a weed, so all of it has to come out lest it spread … like a weed.

6. You have to tend the whole thing. My strategy was to dig up a two-foot wide strip and then plant something, and then dig up the next two feet and plant something. Each thin row of seed needs to be a foot to a foot-and-a-half apart.

After a couple rows the temptation was to leave the soil between the rows and just dig up and purify the thin strip where I was going to plant. I thought about it for a minute and then realized that if I don’t take care of the soil between the rows, whatever is still rooted there will grow up and I’ll have to deal with it later. Later, however, it will have recovered from three tillings and be more rooted and I’ll have to be more careful not to kill the veggies growing next to it.

7. Know your enemies and show no mercy. Earthworms are not your enemies. Quite the contrary. Earthworms aerate the soil and plants like aerated soil. Earthworms are you friends. Beetle larvae, however, are not your friends. They will eventually become beetles and likely eat your veggies. The earthworms I was careful to spare. The beetle larvae I threw into the street.

There you go. I’m sure there will be more lessons as things start to grow and harvesting kicks in. I know, I know, you’re on the edge of your seat but you’ll just have to wait.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    June 19, 2008 1:01 pm

    I am constantly talking to myself when I’m doing any yardwork. Everything is a parable. We were pruning trees on Father’s Day. We had to take out a big branch because it was hurting the house. Wow. I’m always muttering something and a lot of people drive/walk by. I try to not let my lips move but most of the time I’m preaching so I can’t help it. Tell us more…
    Mike I.

  2. KnowYourGod permalink
    June 20, 2008 9:06 pm

    lots and LOTS of people say Gardening is very relaxing and they get into the presence of God– Not me. God Bless you for gardening. :)

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