Written By: Sara Jensen
This week I am sticking with the warmer weather theme and am so excited to share a really great gardening story with you. Wellness is so much more than what you eat and how much you exercise. Those are two important aspects, but part of being well is learning that it is okay to slow down and do something that truly brings you joy.
Today I am highlighting my good friend Ashley. When Ashley and I met, we were talking about her garden and I noticed how much joy she finds in gardening. Ashley was the first person that came to mind when I was thinking about writing a post about gardening. Her story is really beautiful and shows how gardening has always been a part of her life.
Ashley is a third-generation gardener. Her dad’s parents always had a large garden and when she was growing, up her dad also had a very large garden. In the summer months as a child, Ashley spent many hours tending to the garden. If there was produce, Ashley and her sister would pick the produce and their dad would sell it. This was a good money maker for them! Ashley’s favorites as a child were peas and raspberries and somehow they would be gone before she could make it back to the house. Now as an adult, Ashley really enjoys having her own organic produce right in her backyard. Another benefit is that trips to the grocery store are less frequent when the garden is producing.
Not only does Ashley know her way around the vegetable garden, but she really enjoys planting flowers as well. Ashley enjoys many varieties of flowers but peonies are her favorite. Fruit, herbs and vegetables are abundant in both of Ashley’s gardens. One garden is located at a friend’s house in the country and one is right in her backyard. If you were to visit Ashley’s gardens you would find: asparagus, raspberries, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, carrots, corn, onions, peas, different varieties of squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon lettuce, basil, oregano, parsley and pumpkins.
You might be wondering, but what do you do with it all? Well, Ashley also happens to be a very talented cook. When I asked her that question, she shared that depending on the vegetable she either bakes and freezes it, or she also cans many vegetables. Also on her list is making jam, applesauce and pie fillings. Admittedly, this is a time-consuming process but Ashley very much enjoys the off-season when she can go to her shelf or freezer and find whatever it is she needs. “I know where it came from, what is in it and I know how healthy it is for myself and my family”.
What about the maintenance? Ashley states that yes, at times it can be hard, as she works full-time and does have other summer hobbies that she enjoys as well. However, she finds great satisfaction in a nicely weeded garden. She shared that in the vining gardens, sometimes the weeds can get pretty big, and throwing a big clump of weeds out of her garden can be a great stress reliever. Not to mention that all of the work and fresh air really help her get a good night’s sleep!
The following paragraph is a quote from Ashley. There is no way that I could paraphrase it to put it in an article. Often, we have talked about how gardening brings us joy and really does feed our sense of well-being. In this paragraph, Ashley paints such a beautiful picture of the joy that gardening provides.
Gardening takes my mind off of all the other elements in life and my never ending to do list. My dog comes to the garden with me and part of seeing her in the dirt and enjoying the sun and fresh air, provides the same joy. Fresh air and sunshine is one of my favorite parts of gardening. It's relaxing for me to be outside and having dirt in my fingers and toes! Gardening also feeds my sense of well-being because I get many compliments on my flowers and garden by my friends, family and neighbors. That is gratifying because I know it is bringing joy to others around me as well. The best sense of well-being for me is in mid-summer, when the butterflies and hummingbirds are in my yard feeding on the nectar and pollen of my plants. I truly feel blessed to know that I'm doing my part to help the environment.
Ashley has some really great tips for beginning gardeners, please find her tips below. It is my hope that you are encouraged to get out there and plant something!
Ashley’s Awesome Gardening Tips
Start small, one or two plants of each vegetable/fruit that you think you will like. A small garden produces quite a bit, so don’t overwhelm yourself.
After you have picked out your plants, make sure to plant them in a spot that is easy to get to.
Fence your garden, chicken wire is recommended.
Always mark your rows so you don’t forget what will be coming up.
Do a little research to know what the plants will look like as they grow. This will ensure that you pick the weeds and not the plants.
Make sure you have a nearby water source as carrying water will make you give up quickly.
Map it out: Make a map of the plants and where to place them, be sure to ensure that the tall plants do not shadow the ground plants. Shadowed ground plants will lead to smaller produce.