Sharing the Garden
As I was checking the front porch, hoping that my onion sets and strawberry seedlings had arrived, our neighbor Dave came running by. Dave was literally running. He’s a Secret Service agent, and his work demands an awe-inspiring level of fitness. Dave’s gym is four miles away from home, and his practice is to run there, do an impressive workout, then run back. He saw my disappointed face and stopped to ask if all was well. I said, “No, just sad that my onions aren’t here yet. And by the way…” The onion sets came in a pack of 100, and I only wanted 40. I asked whether his family would like some. He said he wasn’t sure about doing a garden this year and asked if they could grow in pots. I acknowledged that in theory, they could. Dave said he wasn’t sure about starting a garden this year, then mentioned he’d seen that we’d had some work done in our backyard. I offered him a drink and invited him in to see the new paths and vegetable beds. He duly admired the cedar-shaving paths, selected since cedar is said to repel chiggers. I said, “Want to see what a baby pear tree looks like?” He followed me to the back of the yard with me and examined them with amazement. Then he asked to see the small blackberry stubs that were poking up in front of the back fence. We bent so I could show him the burgeoning buds close to the stems. “This is really something,” he said. “You’ve got vegetables and trees and berries, an herb garden.” I interrupted him quickly to say that it was mixed flowers and herbs, that I didn’t believe in separating out different types of plants for the most part since many of them had a great deal to give each other. I explained that basil, an herb, was planted with tomatoes because growing them staved off tomato-puncturing hornworms, probably emitting an odor that repelled them. And I often planted a row or cluster of flowering plants among the vegetables to draw beneficial insects. I added that I’d be planting the odd onion and garlic throughout the yard since they did a good job of repelling flying insects. “Garlic!” he exclaimed. “You grow garlic? I’ve never seen garlic growing.” So I led him him over to the thriving garlic patch I’d planted last fall. Dave examined the tall, healthy stalks, then turned to me and offered me the use of his truck if I ever needed to haul anything. “And I’ll take those onions for our garden,” he said.
My garden is nemeton, sacred space where I marvel daily at the timely union of the elements and see my love of the land reflected back at me a hundredfold. But I don’t garden in a bubble. The floral plantings are designed with the bees and butterflies in mind, and the birds are welcome to a share of the berries. Human visitors are welcome, as well. At Imbolc, I start to collect small containers from products like salsa and hummus and keep them handy for guest berry pickers. I have explanations at the ready about my compost pile, intensive gardening, and why the bees are not pests, but friends to be welcomed and nurtured. The garden rule is that visitors may pick the flowers and food crops as long as they’re interested. I well remember my own excitement circa age four when berries I’d picked appeared in my breakfast cereal. It is a great pleasure to watch the discovery, to see Dave and others begin to sense the primal alchemy that brings us nourishment. A neighbor stops me on the street to tell me that her son never ate apples until I invited him to pick one from our tree. I see children whose toys mostly contain microchips get excited about picking tomatoes and corn for their family’s dinner table. I get email from friends, online and real-world, telling me they’ve put in a garden plot and are now composting.
I get, I see, I revel. Our gardens continually give to us. When we eschew the use of pesticides, seeking out practices renew the earth, they pour out even more. When we are inspired to open our garden gates to others, the giving increases by leaps and bounds. We pass on our love for the earth and sky as we bond and build community. Remember to share the garden!