Saturday, February 2, 2013

Finding Answers to Our Spiritual Questions in the Garden

“And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:8)
Our home garden summer 2012

This was part of the Gospel reading this past Wednesday at Mass.  It was taken from the parable of the sower. The complete parable is included here:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:3-8)
Thinking about this Gospel at Mass I began to reflect on my recent experiences with our family garden.  Growing up it was my mother who taught me what I know about gardening.  It all begins she taught me with soil preparation. There is a proper time to turn the soil.  Never too early when it is wet.  Well aged compost is crucial to a garden and only certain things go into compost.  
Our Hone Garden Summer 2012
When my husband and I got married and moved into our home I asked him to make raised beds, a suggestion also from my mom.  My impatience to fill the raised beds and get planting and the fact that our town dump had free composted soil led to a rapid filling of our raised beds using the soil from the dump.  The seedlings I had started months earlier went in as well as the vegetable seeds typically planted directly into the garden.  All seemed to go well at first.  The seedlings emerged and the little transplanted vegetable plants survived but after several weeks it seemed many of the vegetable plants such as the carrots, radishes and lettuce just weren’t growing.  The tomato plants were the only plants that seemed to really grow significantly in size.  Some fertilizers were added and kitchen scraps placed around the plants under the dirt and technique I had read about.  As the tomatoes grew some began to flower and make small fruit.  However, brown spots began to appear on the tomato leaves.  I read that these leaves should be removed right away.  The condition wasn’t always fatal but the plant would be compromised and less fruit would be expected.  The season in all turned out to be a huge disappointment.  After all the work of making the beds and planting the seeds there was almost no vegetables to show for it.  We realized the was the soil.  
Our Home Garden Summer 2012
Veteran farmers at our town farmers market recommended removing the soil and starting over.  This seemed to be such a drastic step.  After a winter of adding wood ash, compost from our kitchen and worm castings from our vermis composter we were ready for a second try.  Plants seemed to take off better but the diseases were far from gone.  We began to see the familiar brown spots but a new disease appeared, a wilt that over night would kill the plant.  It was so sad to see a thriving plant full of fruit, but still too young to harvest, killed almost over night with a terrible wilt.  A subsequent season went by with more improvement of the soil and more harvest but the diseases were always present just not as devastating.  This brought me to start a new cold frame raised bed but this time we added aged manure from my mom’s farm and lots of wood ash and worm castings.  We are poised to begin our new season of planting and as we have just entered February it is time to begin the indoor seedlings.  Hearing the parable in the gospel Wednesday the wisdom of Our Lord’s words hit me face on.  A healthy and bountiful garden starts with fertile soil.  Best to begin with new soil from compost, but the origins of the compost are important.  Compost made from diseased plants will yield sickly plants.  Thinking yet more about Our Lord’s words I began to think of a small baby with fresh new soil given by the Creator Himself.  As the child grows what is put into the soil?  Are additives of prayer generously added to the soil?  Is there love also worked through the soil as it is turned over?  Has the purity of the soil been lost through exposure to violence and profanity and impure images?  When the seed is brought by the Sower will the soil be ready for the seedling to take root and grow without the hinderance of spiritual disease?  
What I have found now three years into the raised bed system is that I would have done far better to start with fertile soil, continue to improve it regularly and watch for the addition of contaminants.  However,  there is still hope for those of us who let our soil run low of nutrients and allowed impurities to be added over the years.  The process to clean and create fertile soil is a slow one.  Lots of good quality material needs to be added liberally.  Vigilance is needed to prevent further contamination.  The yields may not be as bountiful but there are yields.  Each passing year the amount of harvest grows.  The cycle of nature is one which renews itself.  Each season an opportunity for more work to be done but with the work there is joy in seeing the fruits of ones labor.  The life of a gardener is a hard one but always full of hope for a better harvest next year.  As the sun begins to strengthen here in CT USA there is an awareness that once again it is planting time and a new chance to grow and yield fruit.

You may also like the following post:
Grow in God's love as a flower that feels the warm rays of spring

No comments:

Post a Comment