In this season of uncertainty, I’ve been digging for roots. Looking for ways to ground myself without the normal rhythm of our busy lives, strengthen myself as a mother in an unsettled world, and cultivate a strong bond between myself and my children. With so much extra time at home due to COVID-19 and so much to consider in the world with social injustice, it has felt increasingly important for me to become introspective. My garden has given me the time and space to focus on the world around me while also keeping me occupied instead of overwhelmed. When it comes to gardening, I’ve been cultivating more than just plants.
There is something satisfying about keeping your hands and mind occupied, especially as a stay-at-home mother. Especially during a global pandemic. Having daily work that shows progress has been extremely helpful during a time when days seem to blur together. Being outside working in the sunshine is grounding, as it keeps my hands busy in the soil and my mind calm and clear. There’s always something to be done in a garden — cleaning the beds, fixing the fence/netting, adding new fertilizer and soil, planning out which plants to use, starting seeds. This helps me have something accomplishable each day (more than just laundry and dishes) — something to build and look forward to as we witness growth.
Trying new things
My take on gardening is trial and error. With seed packets being fairly inexpensive, it makes it easy to go out on a limb and try to grow something new. Even if a particular plant fails, you learn lessons about that plant’s needs and what to try in the future. Last year I attempted to grow snap peas and was surprised when the plants only grew 6 inches tall, never yielding. I researched why this had happened and asked some friends for their advice. I realized I had planted them a month too late — they needed to be planted outside in April, when the soil was still cold. I learned that lesson the hard way, but this year have a full raised bed filled with climbing, flowering snap peas ready to be plucked out of the garden by my children to enjoy.
Teaching my children
I enjoy having my children take part in the gardening to help them learn about where their food comes from and to learn to enjoy different types of food. They see their seeds grow. They learn to weed. But most of all, we have time together, uninterrupted, working on a common goal. It’s here in the garden where things are quieter, where my son and I can chat — about things as simple as weeds growing in our garden or as deep as racism and how to be considerate of others (as my fellow Boston Moms contributor Shannon wrote, “anti-racism starts at home,” and for us, this couldn’t be more true).
While it may seem like my kids are always helping with the gardening and engaging in meaningful conversations about life, sometimes it isn’t that easy. They’re still young and don’t always have the same focus or stamina to work in the garden as long as I’d like to, so we became creative and built up a fairy garden in one of our raised beds for them to play in. It’s been worth the sacrifice of space, and it has become one of the focal points of our garden! We even did a tutorial video as part of a Boston Moms collaboration with the Boston Children’s Museum. (Here’s my blog post breakdown for simple ideas to create your own.)
Having so much more time at home allowed me to work on projects I’ve always wanted to take on, such as creating our own DIY compost bin. What I thought would be a simple half-hour project turned into a summer-long science lesson with my son as we’ve collected scraps, added them to the compost, mixed, and watched them decompose.
We’ve also enjoyed planting seeds and watching them grow. We tend the garden daily to check on its progress, and sometimes we enjoy the fruit of our labor (our first strawberry!). It has become our common ground — something I look forward to doing with my son. We are able to spend time outside daily, learning, working, laughing, and growing. My garden has grounded me.