Updated: May 17, 2022
Gardening with kids is an honor. The honesty with which they view the world is exciting and keeps my adult ego in check. Try to be prescriptive? They’re gone. Engage too slowly? Opportunity lost. Repeat yourself? They’re outta here. (Which is tough as gardening by necessity is repetitive).
Last week, after picking magical bird of paradise flowers from my students’ garden, we came inside to arrange them.
“That one’s dead,” I said, “Let’s not use it since we have so many others.”
“Why?” came the response from one of my (homeschooled) students.
I was stopped in my narrow tracks. Why indeed? And so we placed each stem carefully in the vase – including the dead one. I looked at the arrangement and felt a sense of calm. I loved that all the stages of the flower were there in plain view, especially that there was space for the dead flower. Once again, it was I who learned a lesson from my student.
My role is that of a guide, illuminating cycles of nature and placing them in the context of how we relate and who we are in these cycles. I’ve been so fortunate to have had brilliant gardening teachers along the way, the most life changing of all being Dr Elaine Ingham who identified the Food Soil Web, and is one of the world’s leading soil microbiologists.
It starts with the soil (not dirt–it’s living!)
To get to the soil, I use one of my favorite tools: in-ground worm farms, courtesy of permaculture. I place the worms in a recycled lidded plastic (BPA free) container that has a series of holes punched through its bottom third. I also place food, made up of browns and greens, in the container. Browns are torn up egg cartons or paper and greens are chopped leftover veggies. The worms then eat this food and poop their nutrient-rich worm castings for your plants to eat. This is a powerful natural fertilizer, also known as black GOLD.
The most exciting part of the process is that, like humans who get energy indirectly from the sun through vegetables and fruits, worms and other recyclers get their energy and motility from the same source. Even dying leaves have energy available for the recyclers. The energy from the sun powers the underground Soil Web. Nothing is wasted.
The mundane aspect of gardening; the continuous cycle of plant, tend, eat, repeat, can seem boring, but there is nothing boring about waking in the morning and racing to the bed where seeds have been sown to see if they’ve sprouted. The first sighting of a seedleaf on a stem poking through the earth, an unfurling bean leaf as it springs into jack-in-the-bean-stalk mode or a tiny alyssum (those fabulous beneficial insect attractors) carpeting the soil– these are the miracles that happen daily and excite future custodians of our earth. We need them and I am honored to be a part of the process.