What drives you? What passions prod you into the garden as the sun rises? What responsibilities keep you hoeing and harvesting into the evening hours? Are you growing much of the vegetables your family will eat, creating a healthier diet for your children, or recapturing childhood taste memories? Do flowers captivate you? Are you working towards having a rose bed like your grandmother’s or a peaceful garden in which to wander? What is the connection between you and your soil?
Mine began as a mid-life dream to escape the city and a life-long dream to put down roots. A new rear-tined rototiller and five acres on which to play gave me vegetable gardens and flower beds in profusion. Much like a child, my eyes were frequently bigger than my resources. “Small” flower plots I created visually with the tiller turned out to be massive when it came time to put in the plants. In the early days, I often resorted to planting watermelon between the tiny shrubs I could afford because the vines quickly covered the bare dirt to create a living mulch.
As I sought to grow the majority of the vegetables we ate, my initial food gardens continued to expand. Curiosity compelled me to plant a myriad of vegetables I’d never heard of. That led to fascinating experimentation in the kitchen. When upkeep of the gardens took too much effort I turned to no-till gardens and permanent mulching so I could keep adding to my growing space without more work.
Working in the gardens rarely feels like actual work to me because it is my favorite place to be. Watching things grow, tending to plants that sustain us physically and emotionally, this is a deep pleasure for me. And yet there are days in which the weeds or rampant honeysuckle threaten to bury me in responsibility instead of the mental relaxation I sought from spending time on the land.
It is important to take time to sit and enjoy your gardens, be they floral, vegetal, or both. Design comfortable seating throughout your gardens so that momentary breaks are as easy as planned days of relaxation. I have a covered swing in front of my edible flower garden that overlooks the vegetable gardens as well as many of the flower beds. For years we had a rustic bench in the middle of our miniature orchard. The weather finally deteriorated it, and later plantings took its spot. I do miss it. We have a 200 year old black walnut at the back of our pasture that overlooks the sheep and the wild wineberry patches. It is a lovely shaded place to relax or nap in the heat of summer. Our front porch rockers look out over massive iris gardens, peonies, day lilies, weigela, lilacs, and snowball bushes. The deck seats rise beside butterfly bushes and give us a panoramic view of the chickens, sheep, vineyard, and vegetable gardens. Trees and large shrubs near all the seating bring in birds of many kinds to add their music to our quiet times. My newest, and most restful spot, is transient. It is a sturdy hammock on a stand that I drag around to wherever I want to take a quick nap.
Do I take breaks to enjoy the garden as often as I’d like? No. But I try to take some time each week to while away some time just soaking in the beauty and fragrance of everything we’ve planted. I’ve also learned that inviting a friend over for a cup of coffee is a great excuse to spend an hour on a swing while reaping the emotional rewards of the gardens and of friendship. Where are your favorite resting places in your gardens?