Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gardening Adventures

The first year that I planted a garden I had no clue what I was doing. My husband had a better idea due to the fact that his mother had grown up on a farm and subsequently had kept a garden for a large portion of his childhood. He built me a 6x6 wooden raised bed and in preparation I planted tomato seedlings in the house. I had a sunny spot in the kitchen window and those little seeds took off. I ended up with far too many and had to give away a lot of those little baby tomato plants to friends and family. I was thrilled that the seeds had in fact turned into flourishing little seedlings. Success!

I had no idea what a tomato cage was, much less that I was supposed to have one. I just knew that I had a lot of tomato seedlings and a raised bed in which to plant them. So, I planted 18 seedlings in that raised bed, along with 2 pepper plants and 2 cucumber plants. I just knew I was going to rake in an amazing harvest!

I watered my garden religiously - that is until we went on vacation for over a week. At that point the tomato plants had gotten rather large and were laden with gorgeous green tomatoes - and lots of them. When we returned from our trip the tomato plants hadn't changed... I was expecting at least some of my tomatoes to have turned a ripe juicy red, but alas green, green, green

Needless to say, my tomatoes stayed green for the remainder of the summer. Out of 18 tomato plants I was rewarded with not one ripe tomato. The pepper plants had been stunted as the tomatoes took over the tiny raised bed, and the cucumbers were small and bumpy looking. I deemed them disgusting and refused to try them. This was my first attempt at gardening.

When we moved into our current home I decided to try a garden again. I planted a couple tomato plants, some peppers, and some zucchini. I had cages for my tomato plants this time. I was all set. 

This time I watered my garden much more. When late summer arrived so did the tomatoes. The zucchini and peppers were also good to go, and so we had our first successful garden! 

 There were some more learning experiences, particularly when I found what I thought was a weird flower on a tomato plant which turned out to be a Tomato Hornworm covered in Braconid wasp larvae. Learn more about that interesting phenomenon here. I also ended up over watering the zucchini plant which made it rot around the roots.

So... weird bugs eating my tomatoes and each other. Plants definitely need water, but not too much. I was learning. 

Last year our garden looked pretty well the same as it had the year before. Tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos,  zucchini and squash. I didn't want to attempt anything more as I had just had our fourth little one and I was unsure of how much time I'd actually be able to spend in the garden. I'd had such a victory the year before with our harvest, though that I figured I could at the very least handle what I'd had the previous year - especially if it was as prosperous!

The zucchini and squash were incredible. When we came back from vacation and found that our zucchini plant had produced a vegetable as large as our infant we just couldn't believe it! After that, I couldn't stop letting them get that big. I'm not sure that you're technically supposed to let them grow that large, but they tasted just fine, and there was a lot of zucchini bread, soup, and pancakes. Yum. I certainly wasn't complaining!

I decided early on this year that we were going to have a larger garden. I asked my husband to build two more 8x4 raised beds in addition to the one we already had. The kids and I had planted all the plants from seed (even though some of them indicated that they were "direct sow"). I figured if they didn't transplant well then I could just directly sow the extra seeds I was holding onto. This year we bought winter squash, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, lettuce, sweet peppers, eggplant, purple beans, sugar snap peas, green beans, and tomato seeds. We also bought a couple started seedlings and traded some of our own with our gardening neighbor. She gave us some cayenne and jalapenos. 

I knew the predicted frost date had just passed and that it was a gamble to plant our little seedlings outside but we had an open weekend and we went for it. My husband got the raised beds together and the kids and I tilled up the old bed. Then we filled up the freshly assembled beds with soil. The next day all the seedlings went into the dirt.

 Because there were supposed to be a couple more cold nights I put some tents over the peppers and baby tomatoes and crossed my fingers. That first night was pretty windy so I stuck some dowels in to hold down the tents. By morning the wind had taken its toll on those little tents and when I happened to glance outside one of them was completely gone! I ran outside and found it several houses away on its side. Later the same day the other tent blew in between two houses across the street. After frantically searching for it I saw it and retrieved it. I jammed both tents as far into the dirt as I possibly could, figuring that would teach them. They haven't moved since. I win.

I wasn't too worried about the cold, after all it was only another week or so of cold nights and mostly warm days. I figured the plants were going to be just fine. 

One night as we got home I glanced over in the side yard and saw this guy. So cute!

We've had a family of rabbits living under our deck for a couple years now and they'd never touched our garden. Jokingly I remarked, "I'm going to go make sure the rabbit didn't eat any of our veggies." Why would the rabbits have started eating our vegetables this year, if they'd left them alone every other year? I strolled to the back yard and lo and behold all my beans and squash plants were chewed down to a nub, save two. Mr. Rabbit had feasted himself on our seedlings. While I'd been worried about cold nights (and days), a rabbit had stealthily made off with half of our crop! I was super annoyed. A trip to the hardware store, a couple of stakes, chicken wire, and staples later our plants were protected from hungry bunnies.

It got me thinking. This is the beginning of my fourth year of gardening. I have encountered something different each year. It's actually a lot like parenting. 

Not unlike a seed which needs adequate sunshine, water, and warmth in order to sprout, a baby needs sufficient time, attention to their needs, and protection from things that could hurt them. Once a seed has sprouted a seedling is still vulnerable to the elements. It needs the right temperature and environment with which to grow in. A baby does as well. They need a warm voice, loving arms, and a lot of nurturing.

Once a seedling is established it will eventually grow out of its container at which point it needs to be put in either a larger container - or if weather permits a garden. A child is not much different. Once a little one starts to explore their world a little more they need encouragement to take the next step. Instead of keeping them confined all the time a child needs to be allowed to discover their world within safe parameters.

Then, as a small plant grows it often needs a lot of water, (or not as much water), extra warmth, perhaps a cage with which to climb on, or a fence to protect it from predators. Different children require different amounts and kinds of attention to suit their personalities. Some children are more sensitive and require a little more time and energy. Some children are incredibly independent and just need a way to grow faster so as to spread their wings. Some kids are more susceptible to being effected by others who would seek to hurt them. Other children are more in need of quiet, and time alone to think and play.

Eventually, if given the right type of soil, enough water, enough sunshine and protection a mature plant can yield a bountiful harvest. Children are so much the same. 

Our children are in our homes for only a short while. Each unique little soul that grows up under our roofs is in need of parents who love them and seek to provide them with time, edification, care, assurance, guidelines, restrictions, along with opportunity and freedom when they're ready, encouragement, and trust.

That first year that I planted a garden I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I just went ahead and did it. It was most certainly a failed attempt. The most important thing I gained from that first endeavor was obviously not tomatoes - it was the knowledge of how to go about it better next time. Instead of flying by the seat of my pants and planting whatever I could think of, I knew I needed to research. I needed to read, and I needed to talk to people who had gardened with success.

Unlike with a garden we don't get do-overs with our children. Once our children are grown that's pretty much it. And yes, we're going to make mistakes - some big, some small, it is unavoidable. Fortunately, we have a great resource to access when it comes to parenting. When you spend time with the Bible and learn from the teaching that is imbued on each page the change that will transpire within you is incredible.  Parenting isn't so much about what you "do" or "don't do" with your kids. I believe that parenting is more about the kind of person you are. How you treat your children is what really matters. That is what rubs off on them. It doesn't matter if you play games with your kids every day, you take them to events, you buy them everything at Toy R Us, or you let them have sleepovers every weekend. If you yell at them every time you're not doing those things, or talk to them like they're an inconvenience that is what will effect them. The way you behave towards your children is what will cause them to either flourish, or on the contrary stunt their growth.

If you take time to cultivate your spirit with time in the Bible you will be a more well equipped parent ready to tend your own precious little seedlings.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31,32
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. 
Proverbs 22:6 

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