Growing a garden is as much food for the soul as it is for the body. There is little more satisfying, or delicious, than walking out your backdoor and picking a fresh, vine-ripened tomato or filling a colander full of carrots and beets with soil still lingering on the roots.
Watching the cycle of a garden, from the dormant earth, first seed sprouting, producing the harvest, and then gifting us with another seed to perform the cycle again, is like witnessing a small miracle each year. My heart is filled with a gratefulness for the way the good Lord created this earth and the food to nourish our bodies that I don’t find in the same depth when purchasing off the store shelf.
After all, God is a Creator—this world and the very depth of nature we see before us is His canvas and design. Watching it up close, how the chill of winter is necessary for production of fruit and some seeds to sprout, to the rains of spring so those seeds can germinate, and the summer warmth to bring everything to fruition and harvest, is a testimony to His hand.
Yet there are springs when the rains aren’t bountiful, the sun is scorching, and plants die; and it’s in these times perhaps I’m more appreciative of the harvest I get, knowing even when the earth doesn’t work with me the way I’d like, God will provide and teach me as I go.
It used to be almost every household had at the very least a small kitchen garden where they grew some of their own food. In much of today’s mainstream society we’ve traded our connection to our food and land for the convenience of having someone else grow it for us. But you and I, my friend (because I consider all other gardeners friends), we know the importance and joy of raising nourishing and healthy food for ourselves and our family that goes well beyond the plate and pocketbook.
I’ve found gardening to be one of the simplest and most complex things there is. It really is as simple as plopping a seed into the soil, providing some sunlight and water, and letting it grow. But on the other hand, the condition of the soil, growing zones, pest management, and any number of other things come into play in determining whether that plant will thrive and provide you with a bountiful harvest.
I come from a long line of gardeners. Some of my earliest memories are of springs filled with planting the garden, snapping beans alongside my father, and filling up the jars for the pressure canner alongside my mother. I hail from people who made their living from the land; and if they didn’t raise or grow it themselves, they would have gone hungry.
My husband and I, along with our two children, raise all our own meat and over half of our fruits and vegetables for the year on 14.96 acres here in the foothills of the North Cascade mountain range of Washington state. As we strive to increase what we grow and preserve each year, we’ve learned a lot—more from the failures than the success, though thankfully we have more successes now than when we first started some 19 years ago.
No matter how many times I’ve grown the same crop or raised a garden, I learn something new every year and season.
A garden will teach you many lessons, and only some of them are about food.
Melissa K. Norris is a fifth-generation homesteader and the author of The Family Garden Plan, releasing this January.