It is that time of year again, here in the Front Range of Colorado, when we begin to think of starting our seeds indoors in preparation for Mother’s Day garden planting. (It is usually right around Mother’s Day when our last frost of the season has passed.) And, so my window is currently full of little Dixie cups full of dirt and I’m eagerly awaiting my first little sprout.
So, that got me thinking. How do I use the creativity of my garden to bring well-being to myself and others? In other words, how do I make it beneficent?
So, here we go.
Five ideas for making your garden beneficent:
- Host a seedling exchange with a group you are connected to. I do this with my church. You may do it with your community center, neighbors, synagogue, friends, coworkers, etc. Here is how it works. Each person who wants to participate grows only one kind of seedling, and they grow a lot more of them than they actually want for their garden. Let’s say Rachel grows 18 cherry tomato plants, and Brian grown 18 jalapeno plants, and Joe grows 18 egg plants. Maybe they each want to keep 3 of what they grew, so they’d each have 15 extra. When everyone gets together again, they bring their extra plants, put them on a table and take the ones they want from everyone else’s extras. This way everyone can have a little bit of everything without having to buy 10 packages of seeds just to use 3 seeds from each package. This is fun to do with a group where some people are experienced gardeners and some are not. It helps the people who are new to gardening to have a support group of people to whom they can ask questions. It is a way to spread the fun of gardening to new people. It strengthens the group social ties because you are doing something together and it gives you something to talk about even well into the summer as you report on how your gardens are doing.
- Find a way to collect rain water for watering your garden. (Assuming it is legal where you live. There are some areas of the country where this isn’t legal due to water rights.) This conserves our water resources and cuts way down on your water bill.
- Join the Plant-a-Row movement. Some states have Plant-a-Row programs where gardeners plant an extra row of produce and then donate it to local food banks. Just google your state or city and “plant a row” and see if there is a group you can join. If there isn’t, nothing is stopping you from doing it anyway. You don’t need a larger organization to go through. Just contact local food banks and ask if they would like fresh produce donated from your garden and if so, when would be the best time to deliver. Fresh produce is often hard to come by for food banks because it spoils so quickly. The produce they usually get from grocery stores (if they get any at all) is often on the verge of going bad. As a result, people who have to depend on food banks sometimes have a hard time getting the fruits and vegetables they need.
- Find ways to grow your produce in with your ornamentals. Some food plants are quite pretty and can mix in easily with flower beds and ornamentals. Leafy veggies are especially good at this. You could grow your pretty petunias along the front walk and mix in some rainbow swiss chard with them. This way you can increase your growing space and get more produce (which means even more to share! See #3). And some go so far as to just turn their front yard into a veggie garden. I’ve seen some beautiful and productive results! Unfortunately, that isn’t something we can all do for various reasons, but we can still mix in our veggies with our flowers sometimes.
- Think of the future. What can you grow that can be canned, frozen or in some way preserved so that you’ll have extra in the winter months? This not only helps to cut down on cold weather grocery costs, but it can also give you great gifts for family and friends. My sister-in-law sends us apple butter and salsa every Christmas from apples they picked themselves and tomatoes and peppers they grew themselves. It is always a special treat for our family. Think about things like: fruit butters, salsa, hot sauce, spiced peaches/pears, pickles, chutney, jams, pestos, etc. Most people love this sort of gift and it is gone all too soon! (You can find tutorials for all this stuff online. I’ll be sharing some of my own as we go forward.)
So, there are just a few ideas for how you can spread the beneficence of your creative garden. How do you use your garden to increase your well-being and benefit the relationships you have? This Year, Make Your Garden Beneficent!