6 Life lessons I learned from gardening

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For an urban girl who has always lived in big cities and small apartments, having my kitchen garden is one of the most relaxing and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. It’s also an endless source of common sense, proving there is a season for everything. I found so much joy in gardening, but more importantly: there are 6 life lessons I learned from gardening I want to share with you.

Persimmons, pomegranates, tangerines and guavas.
Persimmons from our 2009 harvest. The pomegranates I bought it from our neighbor.

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The charm of a Southern California kitchen garden

Lettuce sprouts can teach life lessons  in patience.
Lettuce sprouts for my first winter garden.

Having a kitchen garden in Southern California, where we benefit from an average of 330 sunny days a year, is like having the Garden of Eden on your patio. It means you can grow your vegetables year-round; when I say year-round, I mean it.

Growing lettuce will teach a lesson in patience and trust in the future.
Lettuce in full swing.

After four foggy, rainy days —such a blessing, considering we are in the high desert— I checked out our kitchen garden today. I saw the seeds we planted 12 days ago to start our first winter garden. They are sprouting. Once again, the miracle happened: it was time to transplant the zucchinis. In a few days, the pellets with arugula, Italian lettuce, and salad mix sprouts, which have grown at an astonishing speed, will need to be transplanted, too. Then it will be time for the broccoli.

Growing broccoli will teach a lesson in trust.
Broccoli.

As we prepare the ground to plant white, yellow, and purple onion bulbs for the first time, a tiny bush is loaded with ripe jalapeños. The little strawberries we planted in the spring are bushy. For the first time, we are also going to plant carrots, and we will plant radishes and beets again.

This is a never-ending story: from last summer, we still have small eggplants and tomatoes healthily growing on their vines. Soon their time will have passed, but they are still there.

Lemons from my Meyer lemon tree.
Lemons from our Meyer lemon tree.

Our Meyer lemon tree is loaded. But the persimmon tree that was so prolific last fall didn’t bloom this year, and we won’t have any fruit for Thanksgiving. We’ll have juicy California oranges, though. We’ll pick them from the two trees that Andrés Ignacio and Tomás Eugenio planted three years ago when we moved to this land, so blessed by the Southern California sun.

The peach and plum trees that were so generous last summer have begun to lose their leaves. After all, it is the fall season, and as the Bible says: for everything under heaven, there is a time… and there is a time to sow and a time to harvest.

What you need to thrive in gardening

Plums ready to be picked.

Last summer plums.

When it is about to garden, you need a good environment to thrive. A garden implies commitment, permanent nourishment, sunshine, and precious water. We have sun, but water is scarce and expensive.

To thrive in gardening, you must be patient, optimistic, and enthusiastic. The rewards are infinite. Besides the apparent outcome, there is much more: nature is therapeutic, gardening is healing, and dirt is magic. And besides, I’ve learned so many life lessons while gardening.

6 Life Lessons I Learned from Gardening

Carrots ready to be harvested.

1. To trust the future

When you buy a tiny package of seeds, you need to be able to trust the end. You must trust the outcome when you place those seeds in a pellet and later plant them in a pot. Those seeds may become zucchinis, eggplants, and arugula with proper care. You have a vision that will come true, but you must trust it. 

2. To be patient

Growth takes time, and as the Bible says, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted. As cliché as it may sound, it’s THE truth. You cannot speed up the process. Just be patient and be ready for your miracle.

3. To treasure your solitude

Gardening is so rewarding; you can share the job and its fruits. But you can also find joy in pulling weeds, watering, and pruning plants, all by yourself, and it’s perfectly okay. You enjoy being alone, talking to yourself, appreciating the sounds of silence, and learning to be one with nature. And that’s okay.

4. To value hard work

No garden comes without a lot of work. But it’s worth it. The more you work, the better the recompense. 

5. To fail and keep going

For every success in gardening, there are many, more than you can imagine, failures, and that’s perfectly okay too. One time we had the most robust tomato plants, and the next day they were dead: a gopher ate the roots. Next, we built wooden beds with chicken wire on the bottom so the rodents had to find lunch elsewhere.

6. Don’t give up

There is no one formula. What was good last year might be a failure next year. Dealing with nature doesn’t come with guarantees. Keep up the hard work, and don’t give up, ever.

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