My husband and I were introduced to the world of urban gardening long before it was all the rage. Rather than trying to stay on top of the newest trend in city living, we were seeking to nurse our depleted spirits. We had hit a rough patch in life which had left us both weathered and emotionally spent. Stress was high and burn out was knocking on our door. It was a wise counselor who listened to our sad state and suggested that in order to renew our joy, we should find a life-giving hobby to share in together.
As we brainstormed about activities we were interested in pursuing, oddly enough gardening ended up making the final cut. Living downtown in a major city, we were drawn to the idea of pursuing something that required direct involvement with nature and would stand in stark contrast to the frenzy of life encroaching on all sides of us.
Having little more than a green thumb for houseplants and a large gardening encyclopedia, we optimistically tilled a patch of ground in our small yard and began our new venture. Getting our hands into the soil was more therapeutic than we had ever expected. After much trial and error, we found our first little harvest, not only exciting but nourishing to our souls. Nurturing little seeds and patiently waiting for them to grow was replacing a developed need for immediate gratification with a new and healthier rhythm.
While the rest of our daily efforts seemed swallowed up in an abyss of endless demands, all the energy we put into our garden reaped a tangible reward. Fruit we could see, feel and taste. We went giddy over our first strawberry, appreciating all its attributes and luscious redness. We equally divided it into four tiny slices so each of us could enjoy the fruit of our labor. Though it may have been considered an insignificant harvest to anyone else, oh how proud we were!
Nurturing little seeds and patiently waiting for them to grow was replacing a developed need for immediate gratification with a new and healthier rhythm.
Encouraged by our investment of working towards the same goal, my husband and I would lose any sense of time or urgency in our back yard. Our little plot of dirt became our family’s sanctuary in the midst of the surrounding urban chaos; and, our children were beginning to reap the benefits. In spite of blaring sirens and the roar of the highway (or as we refer to it, the ‘urban river’), they could remain peacefully fixed on a simple shovel and some dirt.
They have grown in their understanding of the seasons as well as the care and discipline it takes to nurture living things. They recognize the importance of pulling weeds while they are still small, the benefit of a strong root system and the patience required to see something through to its fullest ripeness. Most rewarding, however, is their appreciation and ownership for eating that which we have grown ourselves. The common question now at the dining table being, “Is this one of ours?”
Each season we eagerly explore new plant options, finding what responds well to the specific soil our plot has to offer. And over time, we have added compost bins, rain barrels, etc. Such an involved project has given us something to pursue as a whole family. I believe our garden expanding a little each year has been directly related to the peace that has multiplied and taken root in us. I suppose our city-dwelling hearts needed the enrichment a whole lot of dirt and a little bit of gardening could uniquely bring.
Want to try your hand at gardening? Start Small. A lot of people go too big too soon and feel overwhelmed by the upkeep. Potted plants are great for a first attempt. Tomatoes, herbs, peppers and the like can easily be grown on balconies or porches. Enjoy the process and welcome each harvest, no matter how small it may be.