Dogs taking a nap in the garden on a warm summer’s day in June, 2021. (Corey Bullock file)

Dogs taking a nap in the garden on a warm summer’s day in June, 2021. (Corey Bullock file)

OPINION: Living close to nature

During a year of ups and downs, gardening was one constant I could rely on.

As another year comes and goes and I reflect on the year that was 2021, one of the things I was most grateful for was my garden.

It became all the more important to me during another tumultuous year. That time spent in my garden from March until October was crucial. During a year of ups and downs, gardening was one constant. The Swedish term ‘Friluftsliv’ comes to mind – meaning living close to nature.

I spent time planning and propagating. Starting seeds. I grew and sold hundreds of tomato plants. I researched and read and chatted with experts. I met some amazing local farmers and growers. I planted things I never have before, like zinnias and watermelon. I spent time watching bees pollinate my sunflowers. I spent time with my feet and fingers in the dirt. I shared my garden with friends and family.

I also wrote an e-book, which you can download for free by visiting www.petrichorgardens.ca.

I remember in June, a few of our friends came out from the coast for a visit. We spent one of the afternoons just putzing around the garden, followed by a beautiful dinner at our garden picnic table. It was such a pleasant evening, one that I won’t soon forget. I remember how the air smelled sweet. I remember how the food tasted – fresh and fuelling. I remember the sun set that night and the cool breeze in the air. I remember feeling so filled up with happiness that it was overflowing from within.

The 2021 gardening season didn’t go without its own unique challenges. The heat dome sent some plants into a state of stress. We had very little rain during the hottest part of the summer, so watering was a challenge in and of itself. Many of our shade-loving crops went to seed. We also had different challenges, like pests and disease that we had never seen before.

All of these challenges were opportunities to learn and expand our knowledge. We took each curve ball and rolled with it. We noted what continued to thrive, even in the unbearable heat, and what didn’t (looking at you, spinach).

I also discovered more about myself through gardening this year. I found more physical strength. I found a sense of pride and accomplishment. And when things utterly did not work out, I learned how to be okay with it. Instead of beating myself up, I got on the computer or opened a book and found a solution.

Gardening has so many benefits aside from feeding ourselves. It’s time spent outside in nature. Nurturing plants and the mind. More food sovereignty and security. Building strength. Building resiliency.

In fact, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies gardening as exercise. They estimate that someone who is 154 pounds burns approximately 165 calories in 30 minutes of light gardening/yard work. I believe it. I’ve never felt as strong as I currently do, and that is definitely in-part to how much time I spend in the garden and doing work around the yard and house.

This year we also bought a house, which was (and still is) very exciting. Our moving-date coincided with one of the busiest times of year for the garden, but that was okay.

Now we have goals for 2022 that far-surpass any of our previous ones. Although we’re antsy to get plants in the ground, these next few months will be spent planning and pricing things out. The two biggest goals for our garden in 2022 are fencing and soil.

Without healthy soil, we have nothing. So, if we have to ‘sacrifice’ this growing season in the name of developing healthy soil – well then we absolutely will.

We still plan to grow plant starters in the greenhouse, which we will sell like we did last year. We’ll still try to have a small kitchen garden if we can put up some temporary fencing. We still plan to help our friends and family with their gardening, too.

The fact that we aren’t in a rush is actually exciting. It’s our home now, so let’s build the garden of our dreams.

And what a perfect metaphor for us as humans. Our bodies and minds are our homes, so let’s take care of them. Let’s try to be the best versions of ourselves. Let’s recognize that fresh air, water, sunshine, nutrients and healthy structure are all necessary every day. Let’s stay grounded. And when things don’t work out as we planned, let’s learn to be okay with that. Let’s learn from our experiences.

If I could wish one thing for you all for 2022, it’s that you plant even one thing. Whether it’s herbs in a pot on your windowsill, a sunflower in a pot on your porch, or a raised bed filled with veggies in your backyard, I promise you it will be worth it. And if all else, a welcome distraction.