Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guest Post - Growing Plants is God's Work - The Health Benefits of Gardening

Please allow me to introduce my dear sister, Chardale Irvine from the beautiful state of Florida.  Char, as we call her, has been persistently been presented with health challenges most of her adult life.  While sitting in the greenhouse, I was thinking about the wonderful benefits I get from growing plants for consumption.  My thought ranged from the absorption of Vitamin D from the sun's exposure to the increased sense of mental well-being.  

My sister has been experimenting with gardening in a sub-tropical climate.  Having lived in the Rocky Mountains most of her life, this has been quite a challenge.  I asked her to share her gardening experiences and the health benefits she has noticed.  I know that you will enjoy her talent for writing and gardening.

My sister Sherone invited me to share a Guest Post on gardening and health on her blog Anna Pearl's Attic ( As I was pondering how to frame my gardening experiences and perspective while managing my complex medical Malarkey I found myself pausing and staring at the disorganized little container garden and the many projects in various stages of completion around my yard. I thought from the outside looking in, it would really be hard to call anything in my yard a 'garden' or the person in charge of this disarray a 'gardener'.

Of course I initially thought this negated my 'qualification' to write about gardening. Then the healthy part of me (who is the writer in me - thank God) called BS on that.

My first attempts at starting plants from seed ever (because I had previously always bought starts) last winter, while sitting mostly immobile, healing from superior quad tendon rupture surgery, were profound. I found myself worrying over them just as I had worried over my children years ago.

I felt just as nervous, indecisive and RESPONSIBLE for these living, breathing organisms as I had (and still do) of my children. Even though they're all adults now and managing their lives my ear is always still perked for action that may be appropriate at this stage of the game. I find sitting back and watching quietly is the most common action of this phase. And that has expanded to my step kids and my daughters-in-law. Watching quietly feels more dynamic than a physical or verbal response ever did.

But just as I've learned with my children there is much about raising kids that I don't control, even if I'm the 'cause' of the issue in the first place, there is really only the process of responding to the dilemma in front of me in the healthiest way possible - for the children (or adults) and for me. And I find that is a continual evolution as we all pass through our life phases parallel but not 'together'.

And thus it was with my baby plant starts that grew up MUCH,MUCH faster than my human babies; at lightening speed it seemed. Since I was still not able to drive and couldn't even manage the ridey cart at the garden store I was not prepared to transplant 18 plants.

I had three pots and just that much soil and into that went a Sweet Basil start, a cherry tomato start and something else that perished. I was also able to somehow turn enough outside soil to plant 2 squash starts and 1 tomato start.  (Keep in mind I was braced to have only a marginal bend in my knee and was in level 6-9 pain 24/7. How I managed the shovel is just beyond me - and I'm sure the turning of that soil would have been those plants' certain demise had I been 'gardening' in a less forgiving climate than Florida.

The 1st tomato was so delish a squirrel had to sample it.

I will just note that my point of reference for gardening was the very less forgiving states of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah and a 5 plant miniature cactus garden that went coast to coast with us over 3 1/2 years in an old and persnickety 34 foot RV (commonly referred to as The Beast).

At the point where some seed starts perished because I had over-calculated my transplanting capabilities - I asked God/Spirit/Universe to forgive me for killing these baby plants and I eventually forgave myself but only after the 'what I thought were dead and gone' tiny baby leek bulbs sprouted out in the pile waiting to go the long, long, long 15 foot trip from the porch to the trash.

Long story short or getting to the point - my observations thus far for gardening with injury and illness in Florida:

1. I'm not in charge AT ALL of growing a plant. Growing plants (and people) is God's work.

2. Even without my 'interference' God is quite capable and skilled at growing plants (and people).

3. It is a simply a HUGE gift that God allows me the HONOR of peering in and interning with his processes of growing plants (and people).

4. If I ever wanted to understand the true meaning of God's forgiveness I can just look to the cycle of perishing plants that lay in the wake of my inexperience or human-ness - with a once in awhile second chance like the leeks. Even death has a place in God's cycle.

Reviving the baby leeks

Now to expand?/reduce? that to apply to my daily and consistently inconsistent limitations of life and functionality and especially parenting is the challenge.

I am very curious to know where these earthly life internships are taking me.
Sweet basil - the lone survivor

Harvest Report: The only harvest from that first Florida garden was the basil plant which flourishes largely ignored in my front yard.  I put the squash and tomato up for adoption when I had to move. I brought with me a couple of adopted plants that produced exactly 2 tomatoes and 1 1/2 green peppers (that second green pepper was shared with a voracious, mess hall trained eater of a caterpillar.

In less than one day he ate half of that green pepper and I found him passed out inside the pepper drunk from green pepper juice. I said 'Dude! You shouldn't have stopped because the party is over now!' And I carried him over and relocated him into the neighbor's yard. (Ssssshh)

Chardale Irvine blogs about traveling, her medical malarkey and just a bunch of other stuff at:

Peace be with you and all that jazz.