Ah, springtime. You can think of it as Earth’s wakeup call. Time to get out of the house again, enjoy the grass between your toes, and tend your garden. From peace of mind to glorious flowers and fresh vegetables there is nothing quite as primal and satisfying as tilling the soil for a summer garden. You just dig in your hands and reconnect with all the goodness that the season has to offer. And, best of all, it can be done virtually anywhere.
Whether you plant seeds in an urban window box high above the asphalt or work a patch of land in the country, all you need is a little bit of earth, sun, water, and time to take part in the annual cycle of life.
“Spring is one of my favorite times of the year here in the Berkshires,” says Canyon Ranch Assistant Supervisor of Grounds Lori Donnelly. “It’s a time of new beginning and rebirth. When I garden I feel like I’m adding something to the world by nurturing the plants that we as a planet need to live and thrive. It’s a way of becoming one with the Earth.”
Let your senses roam
As every gardener knows, growing and tending plants is a sensual experience that involves much more than simply digging holes, although that can be vigorous, enjoyable and satisfying experience as well. “Gardening involves all of your senses. Simply getting outdoors and hearing the birds or spring peepers can change your whole mood,” Lori explains. “After being locked up indoors all winter there is no better way to get away from the computers and cell phones and just let your soul breathe deep for a while.”
Touch – Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Experience the texture of plant stems and the softness of flower petals, the comfort of damp earth. “It’s like a friend of mine once said, ‘Work with your hands and it will free your mind.’ You become Mother Nature’s apprentice,” Lori says, “and I can’t imagine anyone better to work for.”
Smell – In spring the air is often perfumed by plants trying to attract pollinators. Take some time to stop and smell the roses…and don’t miss the hyacinths!
Hear – While tending your garden, be sure to listen. Hear the nuances of birdcalls, the whisper of wind rustling newly formed leaves, or maybe the soft patter of a passing rain shower.
Taste – A great way to get an immediate “taste” of spring is to plant herbs. They do well in all sorts of environments and make a wonderful addition to any garden, not to mention most meals.
While gardening can awaken the senses, the mind and body, it can also require more physical exertion than most imagine. So be sure to spend some time stretching your lower back before you begin and during the day.
“You would be amazed how many people say they would love to do what I do because it’s such a good workout. I always tell them: Feel free to pick up a rake and join me,” Lori says with a laugh. “Gardening can be a great way to burn calories but stretching is key if you want to avoid strains, sprains and other injuries.”
Also, remember to bend your knees or squat when lifting. If you’re having trouble reaching down, one option is to do your gardening in raised beds or use tools with longer handles. Never lift that feels uncomfortably heavy. A useful way to maximize your workout while gardening is to simply avoid power tools. You would be amazed at what a great workout it is to simply use a push mover instead of and electric or gas-powered one.
Start a garden journal
One secret to maintaining a garden is to keep a journal. A small pad of paper and pencil kept in a plastic bag with your hand tools is all that you need to remember which plant needs more shade or when you can start harvesting those vegetables so lovingly tended.
Keeping a diary is also a way to maintain continuity. If you jot down your successes and failures each year you can use those notes as a guide the following spring. Lori also recommends taking photos, so you have something to remember the seasons by.
So, grab a hat, slather on the sunscreen, and enjoy one of the great natural pleasures. A garden can thrill your senses, fill your table, and keep you happily connected to beauty and nature.