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What I Learned in a Year of Gardening

Kimber in the garden

How has a year passed? It’s gone, just like that. I feel like we were just breaking ground on a new garden yesterday and yet as the winter progresses and we look towards spring, I realize that it has indeed been a year. What a year! There are a number of adjectives that could be used to describe 2020, many of them negative. There are however, a host of positives and I’ll choose to focus on those.

This was the first year for our garden, in the first home we’ve ever purchased. Being part of a military family, I have spent my life moving. Finally, we are in our own home and settled. Our son asked to start a garden almost instantly. He was the one who started this wonderful gardening journey for our family. I’m so glad he asked and that we were able build our own garden. I had originally envisioned a few small raised beds on the sunny side of our home. Later the idea transformed to simply planting directly in the ground. I still only pictured a small garden. It was our first year and my husband and I both worked so I didn’t know how much time we’d have to dedicate to a garden. Little did we know what 2020 had in store for us.

I came home one day and discovered my husband and children quite a ways down the back yard digging. I ventured down there and discovered that they were creating a garden. The little raised bed garden I originally thought of turned out to be a 995 sqft in ground, fully fenced garden with a door, pebble lined paths and a bird bath. It’s amazing how quickly things can change.

The garden at a glance
A garden path is laid

It was a process however. Everything didn’t happen all at once. Four large beds were tilled by hand and a fence was built. Then my husband built the door in his new workshop. After contending with weeds for a while, I decided we needed a true garden path. We took the top layer of soil off, put down garden fabric and then laid white pebbles. A birdbath in the center of it all completed the look and our garden was set and ready for the season.

harvesting lettuce

As I sit and write about these steps, I can picture those days and the looks on my husband and children’s faces. That’s the best part about all of this. Gardening has given our family the opportunity to create wonderful memories and the pandemic of 2020 has given us the time to be home to do so. I will remember the look of excitement on our children’s faces each stage of gardening: from digging in the dirt and finding worms, to the joy of planting seeds, to the gasp of wonder at how quickly plants have grown. It’s been an amazing experience.

I often said this was a year of learning. Learning never truly stops though. It was a year where we learned what our soil was like and how different plants took to it. We learned about the garden pests in the area as well as the beneficial insects and animals. We learned which plants were easier to take care of and which were more needy. We learned how much time was needed to make a garden thrive. Most of all, we learned to slow down and enjoy life.

I remember gardening with my father as a child. He would have me stand and take a photo next to the sunflowers to see how much they (and I) grew each year. I remember being in awe of seeing a purple eggplant for the first time and being grossed out by giant worms. I still don’t like worms, but I’m fearless with gloves on. I have amazing memories with my dad. Each stage of gardening with my children this year, I’ve thought of him. I had them stand and pose with the sunflowers too. I have great pictures of them with the eggplant we grew and our son loves finding worms.

Gardening fun
making zoodles

I believe our children will have amazing memories too. 2020 took a lot away from people, including children. Our children lost the opportunity to go to school and play with friends, but they gained a garden full of life and time with family. They were part of every step. Our son dug the holes for the garden posts and helped lay the garden fabric for the path. Our daughter planted many seeds and dug numerous holes. They watched plants grow and harvested crops. They tried new fruits and vegetables and discovered a whole new culinary world.

It has been quite a year. We went from no garden at all, to a huge thriving garden. We all spent a lot of time down there throughout the year. I spent more time there than anyone though. It became my space to breath. I loved listening to the birds sing and the wind rustling leaves in the forest around us. It was such a peaceful place to be in the middle of a chaotic world. I still feel that way. When the summer growing season came to an end and the fall harvest was taken in, I continued gardening. Many gardeners put up their gardening hat in the fall and kick up their feet by the fire over winter. I didn’t however.

The days quickly turned cold and became shorter and shorter. Gardening is not the same in the winter. Nevertheless, I put my winter coat and hat on and slip my feet into heavy boots and make the trek to the garden. I have quite a bit still going and it makes me smile. Who would have thought I’d be gardening this late in the winter? It’s still my place to breath and to find peace. I still get excited, just as I did as a child, when I see plants taking off. Our children still ask to go with me and skip down the path.

Gardening in the winter

2020 took a lot away, but it also gave my family something wonderful, time together. We had plenty of time to garden and make memories together. We’re now looking toward the spring and new life with hope. We’ve already started designing a new raised bed garden and picking out seeds. Soon it will be time to start seeds indoors to transplant. Before we know it, summer will be here and we’ll be gathered in our beautiful lush garden again. I can already picture our children’s faces smiling with joy and I know that I will have plenty of room to breathe in the peace of our garden in 2021.

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