Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

February 22, 2016

Oh, oh. My eyes could hardly believe it. This year's seeds are here. To me, like so many others, it is like showing a hungry bear a beehive laden with honey.

So much promise. Images of heavy heirloom tomatoes, green acorn squash, pollen-laden buzzing bees spring to mind.

There is also the eminently practical side too. The tumbling loonie, roller coaster stock market, rampaging storms and drought from climate change are sending fresh produce's prices sky high.

Gardens provide opportunities for children to bond with the earth.

Gardens provide opportunities for children to bond with the earth.

Instead of feeling powerless or, worse still, not buying nutritious food, one can take matters into their own hands and grow their own fruits and vegetables.

True, it takes effort and time. But there is a feeling of accomplishment and of being at one with life and Mother Earth.

One of my neighbours talked about the serenity that is coming to her with home ownership. A lot of it comes from having her own garden.

As she rhapsodized about planting potatoes over a previous tenant's oil-soaked ground, the new homeowner reached down and picked up a handful of earth. As she crumbled it and let it fall back into the flower bed, she said, "This is my earth."

There is the delight too of gardening with the birds and bees in mind.

Various trees and bushes provide food and shelter for the feathered folk. Metro Continuing Education is offering an introductory class on trees and shrubs that promises to offer tips on what to buy and how to care for them. (Course number 43946-01; phone 780-428-1111)

Despite the dangers of a warming planet lies the reality that more fruit- and nut-bearing trees can grow successfully in our northern climate.

BRING BACK WILDFLOWERS

Another helpful guide is the monthly Wildflower News (http://edmonton-nativeplantgroup.org). This friendly missive tells of groups putting on various events, plus practical advice on how to bring wildflowers back into city gardens.

It also advocates for natural habitats that are under siege as well as for restoring pillaged areas.

The garden also provides a practical tool for a child to create a bond with Mother Earth. Some seed companies put out packets tagged as a child's garden. Usually these include a variety of easy to grow flower seeds.

Perhaps an easier and more efficient idea would be to choose a packet of easy to grow carrots and lettuce. The youngster would discover the importance of weeding, providing nutrients such as water and natural fertilizer, and implementing companion planting. (One can call up companion planting charts for vegetables on the Internet.)

The early rewards would not only provide the child with satisfaction of growing their own food, but also provide vegetables they might otherwise kick up a fuss about eating. If the initial garden works out, they might be willing to put their hoe in the ground next spring and try some fun things such as potatoes and pumpkins.

CONTAINER GARDENS

No space to garden? Container gardens, along with the growth of condos, are prompting garden centres to offer guidance as to what varieties will grow under what conditions.

What about sharing a plot? Perhaps a neighbour, relative or co-worker has more garden space than they can nurture. Why not offer to plant and take care of the space. Come harvest time, the landowner receives a share of the harvest.

The sharing of the harvest comes to the fore again when one remembers the city's hungry. Some good-hearted farmers and gardeners set several rows of vegetables - potatoes, carrots, lettuce, turnips - aside and come harvest time, they donate the produce to the food bank and kitchens that feed the needy.

FRIENDLY POLLINATORS

Remember the bees too. They are the friendly pollinators that allow the vegetables and fruits to come to fruition. Plant lavender? Of course. Yes, the fragrant flowers can be dried and used to scent clothing drawers or put into a sachet and tucked under a pillow to induce dream-filled sleep.

In truth, I don't do that. I plant lavender just for the bees. It delights me to see the stems of lavender bending down to the ground at times swinging with buzzing bees drinking in the nectar from the purple florets.

St. Francis of Assisi is the patron of ecology. Pope Francis himself takes the garden a step further with this guidance, "The earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated."

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)