Finding joy in my garden
Years ago while battling with severe depression, I ended up with a great professional counselor, who taught me few tools in helping me to cope with my anxiety and depression. At the time, most of it didn’t make sense, but with time I have come to appreciate those tools more than I believed was possible. One of those tools he gave me, was the importance of having an outlet, where I could be me and leave my thoughts and challenges behind. I thought about it for a long time, actually years. In my quest of trying to help people around me with their yards, I discovered my passion for gardening. I had heard that getting your hands in the dirt was really good for the soul and mind, but I had no idea it was so euphoric. At the time I thought that gardening would be an expensive hobby, but that’s because I had no idea, that gardening could be one of the most rewarding and yet inexpensive hobbies. Ever heard of end of season sales? How about propagating plants? I know I hadn’t.
As I am writing this blog, I am ecstatic to write that I will be getting my Master Gardener Certificate in couple of weeks. A local program sponsored by Utah State University Extension. One of the request in this program is, that we become an asset for gardening in our communities. Well, I hope by reading this blog, you will feel like or want to be part of my community. In 2017 our yard was part of the Hidden Garden Tour – that was really fun and rewarding – totally unexpected though.
Gardening has helped me in many ways, but above all with mindfulness and to distress. My friends and family have heard me respond often, when they compliment me about my garden, “thank you, but it’s cheaper than therapy and I need lots of it”. Most people laugh at that, and think I am being modest. My office is full of books about gardening, there are countless blogs and articles, not to mention scientific research that indicates being close to the mother earth is not only emotionally good for us but also physically, as it releases serotonin, and once that releases in your body, I tell you what, it makes you feel happy but also physically relaxed. This has been an amazing tool for me, even while living with chronic pain.
Both my Orthopedic doctor and physical therapist have told me to exercise, well for me traditional exercise is a little hard. It’s hard because I don’t think its fun. I get it! They want me to be in motion which helps to strengthen my bones, joints and muscles. Also because when your body releases serotonin, it actually helps with the healing process.I know there are lot of things that are not fun and we still have to do them, but enough is enough!! Gardening gets me out, gives me fresh air, makes me move (have to just be smart about it), helps me to “stretch”, “walk”, “do push-ups” and at times even those stomach muscles have to work. So you see, the health benefits of gardening are endless 😉
Dare to Try
Initially when I started gardening, I believe the only thing I knew, was the difference between weeds and flowers (I think I did). Suffice to say, I did not know much. As I started, the concept of Learning-by-Doing became my go to. My greatest supporter was my husband. That poor guy, he would come home from work and his“honey-do-list” would be mile long. But between the two of us, we started discovering and learning as we went along – trial and error.
Several years prior we had bought our fixer upper, and our funds and energy were more needed inside the house than outside. But I decided that a small portion of those funds were going to go to our yard. I was ready to dare and try something I had no clue of how.
Initial steps were the hardest. I had hard time envisioning what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what would be easy maintenance. Of course within landscape design, sky’s the limit. If you can imagine it, you can probably design it. My issue was, I wasn’t sure what I liked and wanted. All I knew was that I needed and liked flowers. You would think that’s easy enough, well it was not. That first year I bought bunch of flowers for my garden and when next year came around only half of them came back the other half were dead. I did not know the difference between Annuals and Perennials. Zoning, what’s that??. We would try to water our lawn, but it still looked pathetic. Was it lack of water? Or maybe just maybe, it was getting too much water and not enough nutrients? Yes the initial steps were no fun. How could it be fun, all we were doing was trying so hard and it was not paying off. Our yard still looked sad and lack of functionality. So I decided what I needed was inspiration. Robert and I started visiting all the local nurseries and gardens. We discovered people were really willing to share of their knowledge and experiences and by doing that, my ideas starting flowing (visiting local nurseries and gardens is still our favorite “getaway”)
Decide What is Important for you
Ones I decided that flowers were important for me, the next thing we both wanted was a place to grow veggies for our growing family. That was not only a necessity for us at the time, but trying to imagine eating fresh, “organic” vegetables out of own backyard was such a thrill. One thing I knew I wanted was grow boxes. I wanted the kind that would hold rain, snow, heat, teenagers, toddlers, stray dogs and cats and everything else that might come our way. Robert build me 3 large grow boxes by cinder blocks. At first we had one irrigation system, but over the course of ten years, we have tried three different systems and have finally found one we like.
We also wanted a place for our teenagers to have as a “hangout” place with their friends, so naturally the only way to accomplish this was to provide a setting for s’mores and hot dogs. Yes, a fire pit! The old fashion wood burning kind (and now some of those same teenagers are older and have their own families, tell us, wood fire pit makes us all stink, can’t you replace it with gas – I have to admit, I agree most of the time). The point is, we found what worked for us, within our budget and that is what ultimately gave us real joy. What my neighbors down the road had or have is really irrelevant to me, because as the saying goes “the grass is NOT greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it”.
Can I get this one thing off my chest? NO! You don’t have to have a perfect looking yard and garden in one day, one month or even one year! The joy truly lies within the journey, not the destination. We started our journey to convert our humble backyard to something I would enjoy in the long run about ten years ago, only to discover that I still go out there every day wondering how I can improve it. One would think I have an addiction to plants, well I probably do to some degree. What drives me more, is the creativity side of me, the artistic gene which I didn’t think I had. Also experience has taught me a great deal about plants, climate, environmental issues the dos and don’ts in landscaping. So you see, just like our own health, we are the ones who really know our own personal needs and wants the best. We can be influenced, receive direction and recommendation, but ultimately we are the ones that have to live with it.
Landscaping little at a time also helps when money is not growing on a tree, (I’d love just one seed from it). Financially it was less of a burden on our family and getting into further debt was not the route we wanted to take (medical bills was doing that already).
Enjoy Every Day
I hope you don’t quit, just hang in there. We often look at other people’s accomplishment and compare ourselves, without taking any obstacles or opportunities in consideration. And when it gets frustrating, because it will, ( those darn bind weeds!!!) remember to stop and smell the roses, the
lilacs, the lily, the sweet pea or the peonies. Because at the end of the day, when you hands are aching and your back is done for, there is nothing more rewarding than to see what you have accomplished, be it ever so little or great. And by all means enjoy the journey and know it is okay to make mistakes. Those mistakes for me became the greatest teachers.