“Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Gen 3:17b-19
Gardening shouldn’t be this difficult. We plan. We decide which plants we choose to grow. We carefully select the seeds and some of us start our tomato plants long before it is time to put our cross country skis away for the season. In our Eden, the plants thrive with optimal sunlight and consistent watering. Generally there are no pests to worry about. It’s very easy to envision all of the plump ripe tomatoes maturing over the course of the summer filling storage boxes in the basement while trying to figure what to do with them all.
Then it comes time to plant. We complete all the necessary steps to increase our likelihood of a successful bountiful garden like feeding our soil with a consistent supply of compost, applying organic fertilizer at regular intervals, pruning the lower leaves of the tomato plants, and properly thinning out plants to ensure the strongest seedlings have the space to thrive.
Enter late July. The Japanese beetles arrive and voraciously eat leaves, devastate the rose blossoms and repeat their life cycle until fall. They are nearly impossible to eradicate. You can control them the best you can with scent traps, but our area is experiencing an infestation of these foliage pests that they can strip leaves clean. Forget about seeing roses again until next spring.
Long periods of drought have us continually filling water cans, trying to keep the plants from drying out. I calculate I spend around an hour every day or every other day watering the garden plants from the spigot. But, probably the weather pattern that concerns me the most are sustained hot and humid stretches when temperatures are in the upper 80s and 90s with an occasional soaker thrown in. That has been sort of the death knell to the thriving tomato garden the past couple of years. While bad for the tomato plants, it’s great for generating and spreading fungus that kills off all the tomato leaves, but thankfully doesn’t kill off the fruit.
The broad-leafed squash plants also succumb to hot humid weather as white powdery mold forms on the leaves and without intervention will kill off all the greenery and will result in an abbreviated growing season. While some gardening experts offer solutions to such problems, usually, I am reserved sit and watch the accelerated decline of the high producing crops in the garden as once these symptoms appear. Usually I’ve found it’s too late to reverse the spread of the mold or fungi even with intervention.
Of course, there are the rabbits and an occasional white tailed deer that will visit in the evening hours and not to mention the never ending supply of weeds that keep appearing.
Anytime you see a well maintained garden, it is a labor of the soil. It is a struggle against the curse. Sometimes we win. Sometimes our effort falls short. Through it all, it is a complete reliance on God to provide the increase. We have kept our tip of the week on our website, “I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. Haggai 2:17.” After putting that tip up, we discovered it is the only tip you need, for in our own strength we can do nothing. All wisdom is from the Lord, including the knowledge for how to do it right.
There are certainly factors you can’t control, but there is joy in hard work. There is satisfaction in the sweat dripping from your brow. Carrying buckets of water to irrigate the tomato garden can be drudgery, but also has plenty of health benefits in the form of physical exercise. Garden to table isn’t just a philosophy. It’s a way of life. It sort of follows its own life cycle. While our reliance on the backyard garden isn’t as foremost as it was 100 years ago, it brings us back to the very foundations of our existence.
“Through it all….through it all,” as Chuck Swindoll once said, “Not around it all…around it all.” There is gain through work and determination. The human spirit tends to thrive when a challenge appears forthcoming. Many lessons are learned when the spade breaks the ground. The union of the muscle and mind.
Best of all you experience God while working in the field. His design is everywhere. The genius of His creation is something to behold. Imagine when He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool hours of the morning. You witness the defined purpose of the honey bees busy flying from blossom to blossom. They all have a job to do gaining from their work for the betterment of the hive. You benefit when those flowers become summer squash.
You observe the robin jump up and grab a low hanging raspberry. The berry is designed to provide food for the eater and later the seed is deposited for new raspberry bush to grow somewhere in a nearby county. As you overturn the soil, you can see the health of the soil by the number of earthworms that are breaking down organic matter in the soil.
The life cycle…from dust to dust…there are many valuable lessons and experiences learned through calloused hands.