Posts Tagged ‘garden therapy’

Slowing Down

October 22nd, 2010

Slow gardening, like slow food, is taking the time to savour, it is the process, not the sudden transformation that matters.  When you build a little, dig a bit, plant a little, move slowly and most importantly, don’t try to do it all at once, nature works with you.  Gardening is something you do, not something you buy.  You don’t have to spend money to have a great garden.

If you can find the right plant for the right place your hardest job is done.  The plants do the rest!  Don’t aim for a tropical garden if you live somewhere cold.  Life has enough pressures without bringing them into the garden.  Make compost and leaf piles and let nature look after your waste.  Relax a little, then do a bit more.  Soon you find yourself slowing down and enjoying the process of gardening.

Whatever you end up creating and growing in your garden, it is good to find your own way of doing it, and enjoy the process.  The garden is the one place we do not need to rush. It is a place to slow down and take it all in!  Everyone can grow something.  It can be anything, and when you grow something you become a gardener.

Happy gardening!

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The Heap

August 12th, 2010

This morning I headed out to the compost bin and gave it a bit of a stir with my trusty fork, then gave up on the fork and got stuck into it with a stake.  It never fails to make me feel better, both I and the heap give off a good bit of steam.

When I was first learning about gardening, I put my hand on the top of a compost heap one chilly morning and I remember the shock I got to find it warm.  It was like a living thing.  It seemed to me to be a wonderful thing that a heap of rubbish and manure should become a living, steaming thing.  I still feel this today.

This winter I have built a very good compost heap.  More organised than other years with layers, sort of.  I have put in weeds, kitchen scraps, leaves, duck poo & the shredded remains of my old tax files.  I feel a sort of pride as I mush it about, it is very nearly ready!  Excitment +

There is a science in compost but there is also alchemy, a kind of magic.   The things I have learned about compost make up a corner of bigger lessons about life itself.  Everything that lives must die.  Everything decays.  Life springs from death.  These are matters at the heart of things, and at the heart of the compost heap.  A compost heap is all about life from death, but it is also about muck and muck is the stuff of life.  If  life is getting a bit on the mucky side I recommend going out to the heap and giving it a good old going over with the fork!

Happy gardening.

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Winter Portrait

July 21st, 2010

My lemon tree is heavy with fruit

Today I will paint a word portrait of my little winter garden.  The Daphne is covered in buds.  Soon the buds will open up into flowers and I can take a few inside to enjoy their scent.  The  pineapple sage is still flowering much to the pleasure of the little honey eaters that love to feed on its flowers.  If you brush up against the bush as you walk on by, or the native mint bush that grows near it you can enjoy their scent as it is only released when the leaves are crushed.  There is nothing so lovely than to pick a leaf, hold it up close and drink in the scent,  exquisite, against the cold, morning air!  One of the delights of an early morning wander about. 

Mahonia - a wrens' delight!

The sky this morning is blue again after days of grey.  Drifts of cloud streaking overhead.  My bowl of hyyacinth are almost flowering!  It is very still.

My lemon tree is heavy with lemons.  The little finches and honey eaters are very busy and so quick flitting about in the pineapple sage.  The ground is very wet, much to the ducks delight!  My red camelia is covered in flowers and a delight to see.  Over in the corner, close to the lemon tree is the Mahonia, also covered in the beautiful long yellow flowers.  These are scented and the birds love to visit this tree also.

my little winter retreat

My garden is not neat and tidy but it is a very busy place full of bird song and growing things.  You can hear the busy little finches and the tiny honeyeater and if you look carefully you can see the bush move, but you have to be patient and wait to catch a quick glimpse of the tiny bird visitors.

This is my winter garden.

PS.  The first of the jonquils are flowering…Spring is on its way!

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Therapeutic Pottering

July 10th, 2010

The ducks love to potter

 

There is an art to pottering in the garden.  When you master this gentle art you will find that pottering can be very therapeutic!  Time slows down.  You slow down.  It can be very relaxing.  The first rule of pottering is that there is no rules at all.  No lists of work to be done.  In fact the very best sort of pottering happens when you just go outside and wander about, doing whatever comes to hand.  There should be no timetables, no particular project to complete. 

It helps to have a complete day ahead of you, but if you practice the art of pottering, it is possible to do it with whatever time you have to spare. 

I usually start a day of pottering with what I call ‘the garden walk’.  This is different from walking to get somewhere, or the early morning exercise walk.  This walk is more of a wander really.  You just wander about, and maybe sit down, if a seat is at hand and let your mind drift.  You will notice little things that need your attention.  Some little job that you might like to do.  A weed may need to be pulled out.  A rose cut back.  Before you know it your garden gloves are on and you are away.

The hours pass and you might find you  have got quite a lot done, but it doesn’t matter if you have or not.  A day spent pottering is not about ‘getting things done’ it is about time being spent pleasantly.  It is about listening to the birds and maybe sitting down and watching them for a while.  It is about not just smelling the roses but taking the time to touch their petals.  It is about slowing down.

Happy gardening!

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Healthy Soil

June 7th, 2010

If a garden has healthy soil it makes all the difference to the end result.   Healthy soil is pure magic with a fragrance and texture I learned to love early in my gardening life.  I find that the plants growing in healthy soil will grow stronger, faster and might I say happier?  Compost is a good way to feed the earth the lazy way!  It helps to build good soil and then your garden rewards you with great plants – and it doesn’t cost a great deal either!  A beautiful abundant soil is not only the foundation of a great garden, but the foundation of my gardening philosophy.

Gardeners of the past dug everything diligently and it took many years to resist the temptation to follow their lead, but I have now reduced my compulsion for turning the soil to a minimum.  The truth is that worms don’t like having their little tunnels destroyed, or being flung into the cruel light of day on the end of a garden fork.  I have found that if I need to create a new garden bed the best way is to use newspaper as a mulch with organic material spread on top.  I learned to put down enough paper to smother the grass and weeds, about 6 to 8 sheets does the job.  This seems to be enough to smother the weeds, but not so much that the worms give up and go elsewhere.  I want to attract them with lush manure, hay and other organic things that they are fond of.  They are my greatest allies after all.  It is, of course tempting to bring in topsoil, but I couldn’t afford it, and this method works so well!

lemons

There are probably as many variations on compost making as there are compost makers!  My method doesn’t involve turning heaps over, and takes time, but in the end there is year-round compost.  I have two bins and I rotate them every 6 months or so.  This means that while one is being filled up with weeds, duck poo and other soil yummies the other is emptied onto beds as needed.  This allows loads of worm-laden soil food to be available through all seasons.  My drums are bottomless so worms, natural soil microbes and their many friends and associates can come and join the party.  From time to time I will throw in some compost worms and the odd sack of soil and of course at this time of the year the leaf litter. 

Some ingredients that I throw in include: garden waste, spent crops and weeds, grass clippings, autumn leaves, kitchen compost, wood ash, duck poo and hay from their pen.  Throwing in a sprinkling of lime or wood ash over the layers every so often helps sweeten and moderate the pH.  My bins have lids, but you could use a tarp or flattened cardboard.  The covers stop the compost from drying out and shade it from the heat in summer.  Worms like the dark.  To aerate the mix I shove a stake or crowbar down a few times and wiggle it about, I do this when I feel the need for letting off a little steam!  Garden Therapy in action!  But I find that mycompost doesn’t need much air as the bins are wide and shallow, allowing it to naturally ventilate.

Happy Gardening!

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Blue Autumn Skies

May 11th, 2010

A cheerful garden under the bluest of autumn skies has been begging for my attention.  So, for the past few days it has been me and the ducks pottering about.  It was wonderful to be outside and it occured to me, once again, that it is the garden that teaches me what ‘gardening’ is really all about.  A garden can help us to connect our dreams with the natural world around us.  Gardening connects us to the natural world and slows us down to the pace of life as it should be lived.  As you work away in your own little Eden the seasons become your teacher.  You get to know the plants more intimately and learn about their likes and dislikes, as you do with friends.

I like to feel that gardeners who live and work in harmony with their surroundings make a valuable investment in the living green mantle of Earth which sustains all life by providing shelter, food, and even the air we breathe.  I certainly feel more in harmony myself if I have had my ‘garden therapy’ for the week.

Autumn is a very busy planting time for me.   I have moved towards mediterranean, drought tolerant plants that need little water, and  I have found that these plants planted in autumn become established over winter, watered by the beneficial winter rains.  In the summer that follows, many are able to manage on their own, helped by ample mulch, while a few still need the bi-weekly water to survive the hottest summeer months. 

So, I have been away from the computer and busy as a bee out under the slowly changing colours of the autumn leaves.  Waddles and Hazel have been having heaps of fun in the puddles that have been abundant lately with the rain, and to make things even more exciting – we are beginning to find more …snails!  Well, I am off to rake up a few more leaves for the compost!

Happy gardening.

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Garden Postcard

March 30th, 2010

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March is nearly over, and this month in Melbourne we have had a mixed bag of weather!  From grey damp days that made the garden subdued, or was it just me, to hot and relentlestly sunny.  To complete the mixed bag we had huge hailstones, that broke roof tiles and stripped all leaves from some trees!  The days leading up to the storm I had been hoping for some heavy rain to renew my flagging garden, but I had not wanted it quite so heavy!  Waddles and Hazel are still a bit spooked!  But then when you are a duck most things are a bit scary, especially at this time of the year!

GardenMarch10 007As we move from summer and the days shorten, the mornings are delightfully cool and it is a treat just to be outside in the garden early after a drop of rain the night before has made it all smell just wonderful!  Perhaps autumn is not quite here yet, but it is coming and the temperatures will soon start to drop.  It is safe to visit a nursery and buy something without fearing that it may burn up if you plant it out!   What bliss!  The autumn colour is beginning to show as I drive about the hills of home.

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I am just about finished clearing up after the storm, it took a few weekends, and I still have to do a little repair pruning on some bushes.  I needed to buy new buckets and a watering can as they were torn to shreds.  The creek out back turned into a torrent that Saturday and took with it a lot of my top soil and a couple of plants, but being sheltered in my little shady grove my tall trees protected my roof from the worst of the hail and all I lost was my sky light.  In fact hardly any Sky lights managed to cope and Bunnings have a waiting list, still. 3 weeks later! 

GardenMarch10 015So a very exciting month – weather wise!  What will April bring?  Well, I am off out to fertilise my azaleas, all of whom are looking much the worse for wear after a long hot summer, will they pull through?  Who can tell.  But my sasanqua camellia is covered in buds, the bulbs are all pushing their way up and I have plenty of room in my compost bin for those leaves that are about to fall!

Happy gardening!

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Garden Muck & Magic

March 25th, 2010

A small treasure

A small treasure

Why do we all love to have and tend our gardens?  I believe it is the love of growing things.  It is the excitement of watching the wonders of Nature unfold before our eyes.  To watch those first green sprouts of the bulbs we planted months ago and almost forgot about!  To see the fascinating results of a tiny seed yielding its beauty.  To feel the earth under our hands and get down and dirty! 

my lemon tree

my lemon tree

In Wind in the Willows Ratty enjoyed mucking about in the river, on the river and in a very similar way I enjoy mucking about in the garden in amongst the weeds and plants.  Digging amongst the rosemary enjoying the heady fragrance as I work!  Feeling the earth – feeling connected. 

Rest for a while in your garden and let your thoughts wander at random to ponder on its beauty.  You will be surprised at how relaxed you will feel after a short time.  Think of all the creatures we find in our gardens – the beauty of the butterfly, the swift flight of the birds, the joy of hearing them chatter and sing, the minute insects under stones and plants, our hardworking friend the earthworm.

 

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My garden is not an award winning one, but it is a garden made with Love, with a capital ‘L’  – sometimes the ‘L’ stands for Learner!  I am always learning – the garden can teach you many things, and not just about plants!  A garden can teach you patience, it shows you how to look carefully and notice small things.  It is alway full of surprises and little joys.  If you allow it, you will learn how to slow down to the pace of life as it should be lived, one season at a time.  

Happy gardening!

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Brunch & a Chat

January 24th, 2010

Brunch is served

Brunch is served

Welcome to my garden! I have been very busy outside this morning harvesting my tomatoes and pulling out some weeds here and there. I have been pottering about and time just got away from me, but in a very nice way. I could hear little noises from the duck shed telling me it was time for Waddles & Hazel to come outside to start their day. So, I let them out and decided to make some pancakes with their contrubution of eggs and to make a bit of an event of it by brunching outside and enjoying the garden. So, here I sit with the day before me and the gentle peace of the garden surrounding me.

Chuckles drops in with some friends

Chuckles drops in with some friends

So far the summer has been gentle to my garden and my water tank is full.  It is cool this morning and the scent of the native mint is competing with the lovely smell of early morning coffee.  I can just sit back and watch the day unfold.  Hazel and Waddles have trotted down to their little pond and are just about to slip in to have their morning splash.  The rosellas are up in the Chestnut tree making little noises, just so I know that there is no seed on their seed tray.  Suddenly, Chuckles swoops down with a couple of friends to see if I am having something they might like to share.  But they are not impressed with my pancakes!  The ferns are green and lush and some little finches are playing about in and around the fushias.  High overhead the cockatoos swoop and screech, and quietly in the background the creek bubbles along its way to a larger river downstream.

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I look through the paper and decide to head off on a drive later and take a peep at a few nurserys and markets I might pass on the way.  There is no hurry though, I will just let the day unfold slowly.

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Sensory Gardening

January 22nd, 2010

GardenJan2010 049     I like to think that most people who grow plants, even if only one pot plant has talked to it or them (the plants, that is) at some time or another. I certainly do. I feel that there is a certain affinity we humans have with plants – an affinity that cannot be explained rationally. But then, I have been caught by my next door neighbour explaining to some local kookaburras that I did not have any more meat to give them. I had my hands out, to show that they were empty, and I spoke very slowly. ‘No more, see?’ ‘I don’t think they speak English,’ said my neighbour, with a chuckle. Well, they are learning, I explained. But, I am certain that whether or not other people talk to their plants, most people would experience a similar experience of obtaining comfort, solace or just relaxation just from being around plants or natural areas. There is something sensory about the way plants affect us.

Garden -Dec09 004This is hardly surprising, for most of the things that happen in the world are beyond the ability of the human senses to detect anyway. We see a minute fraction of the available range of wavelengths of light; our ears hear only a small portion of the known ‘sounds'; our ability to detect chemicals via taste and smell is far inferior to that of other animals; and there are myriad of other forms of senses that other organisms possess but we do not, such as radar and magnetic sense. And even the stimuli we do perceive are interpreted through the filters of our own beliefs and upbringing.
Everyone, even the most hardened cynic, have experienced moments of heightened awareness and sensitivity. At these times we touch the mystic, non-rational side of ourselves – the side that is normally buried beneath the thick, rational skin of our exterior workaday selves. 

Garden -Dec09 006       I find that these types of experiences commonly happen to me when I spend a lot of time around plants and nature.  I find that working with my garden, working with nature helps me to become attunened with the earth in a very special way.  The process of attunement is one of the most powerful tools available to the gardener, for it enables you to tune in to plants, the soil, the weather and so on and in this way to take actions that will be in harmony with your garden.  Attunement is beyond a rational understanding; it cannot be understood in the normal way we understand things.  It can only be validated by experience, by feeling it.  Neither is attunement a conscious process, for it involves a ‘letting go’. 

GardenJan2010 025There are no hard and fast rules about attunement; it is a very individual experience.  For me it begins with quieting my internal dialogue.  To achieve such a quiet mind is no mean feat, and it does require more effort than one would think.  But, after I have succeded in switching off my interal dialogue, the rest  comes by itself.  Suddenly I will get a clear picture of where a particular tree should be planted or of some change that is needed and this knowledge comes with a great certainty, usually without any explanatory reasoning.  You just know.

One way I have found helpful in developing this extra sense of attunement is to walk around the garden.  Not for any particular reason, but just to feel a part of it, to feel the earth beneath your feet so to speak.  Attunement is a practical skill that can be acquired by anyone.  It is the skill of developing a feel for your garden – a feel for your plants – they do talk to you, you just have to stop and  listen.

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