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Monday, September 19, 2011

Gardening = Parenting?

sage in the fall garden
Gardening is like raising children. Maybe that’s why she’s called Mother Nature. You go for so long trying to do the right thing, holding back, just nipping the buds when you need to and watering just the right amount for growth but not overstimulation. And then your plants get infested with some nasty bugs and you break down, buy some Sevin Dust, and spray the crap out of them.

It’s like the way I am with sleep. I gently comfort my kids to sleep seven times a night, 49 times a week. I nurse them, rock them, pat their butts, and sing to them. I gently murmur, “Mama’s here” when they wake in the night and I stumble to pick them up and cuddle them. And then about once every two months, I’ve been awake longer than I’ve been asleep, I’m dying to curl up with my pillow instead of a squirmy infant, and I freak out, leave the baby crying in the crib, put a pillow over my head, and try to get some sleep. And then I cave in and rush back to my baby’s room or get eaten alive by guilt the next day.

In both cases, it’s better to be gentle. Last Saturday, I took a class about fall gardening from Ryan at our local organic garden store, Progressive Gardens. The kid is inspiring and quite a genius when it comes to plants. I know you’re supposed to build up healthy soil—or, as he puts it, a healthy ecosystem—for healthy plant growth. But then I get bugs or my plants get diseased and I put all my energy into fighting it.

But this is how Ryan put it, and this really resonated with me:

Your garden is like your body. When people around you are sick, you don’t dodge out of the way of germs. You build up your own health and immunity so that when you’re faced with germs, you are healthy enough to fight them off.

My biggest complaint about the medical profession is that doctors tend to give remedies for symptoms, but they seldom delve deeper and try to find a solution to the cause of the symptoms. Doctors are constantly giving medicine to get rid of the pain or bring down the fever, but what’s really causing the pain and the fever? If you fixed that, you wouldn’t need to worry about the rest of it.

Your garden is the same way. Instead of spending money on this insecticide and that herbicide, think about what you can put into your soil to make it healthier. Insects use their antennae to hone in on sick plants. If you have an insect problem or if insects are attacking your plants, think about what you can do to make them healthier. If you have healthy plants, the bugs will go to your neighbor’s yard and leave yours.

To initiate a healthy ecosystem in your yard, two of the best things to use are compost and compost tea. Mixing a lot of compost and organic material into your soil makes it retain moisture better and feeds your plants naturally. Both compost and compost tea introduce living microorganisms that balance out the health of your garden.

I’m trying to go this route this year. I’ve mixed a ton of compost from my own compost bin into my gardens, and every week when I stop at Green Baby Diaper Service, I run into Progressive Gardens and pick up a gallon of compost tea to spray on my plants and garden. Instead of paying $100 for mulch, I’m using pieces of cardboard and weighing them down with compost. I don’t even buy potting mix for my outdoor potted plants. I’m using a combination of compost and dirt from the garden.

I do have a lot of grasshoppers in my yard, and they are likely attacking my less-than-healthy grass, but I’m using Neem Oil on the foliage of my garden plants to deter the grasshoppers from eating the leaves. Other than that, I’m feeding with compost and waiting for my fall garden to flourish.

radishes in fall garden
Growing radishes in the fall garden

fall flower garden
Don't be fooled by this beautiful flower...

weeds in fall garden
I still need to weed this garden.


Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

I love the parallel between parenting and gardening! And I totally empathize on the sleep stuff!

Thanks for linking up at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday again :-)

Good Girl Gone Green said... Best Blogger Tips

So true! Love it! :)

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