Gardening that gives back


I started out gardening for myself.–I think most of us do, unless you’re helping your spouse garden and you get hooked.  I still garden for myself.  It gives me a lot of pleasure and fulfillment even when plants die or my design looks ugly.

I attend a group that meets weekly.  Currently, we’re all reading and discussing the book, 9 Things You Simply MUST DO to SUCCEED in LOVE and LIFE, by Dr. Henry Cloud.

This post isn’t about that book but about the group’s discussion at one of our meetings and how it relates—for me—to gardening.

Recently, one meeting participant went into a lot of detail about the negativity in her childhood.  Her pain was still present and apparent to all of us, and several group members discussed “pulling the tooth” which is the title of one chapter in this book.  “Pulling the tooth” is synonymous with getting past the negativity or problem, whatever it may be, to move forward in life.

When she finished talking, I asked the group, “Well, what if you’ve already pulled the tooth?”  In other words, what if you’ve dealt with the negativity already?  I said I’d moved on from most of life’s bad stuff and was looking now to giving back and find meaning. I said I wanted to do whatever it was that my creator wants me to do, but didn’t know what that might be.  In other words, “Where do I find my current purpose? Where should I direct my energy so it’s not self-focused?”  I already do volunteer work, but still have more time than most people to do other things that don’t only benefit me.

Once again, one member came through with a good answer: Do what you enjoy.

Huh?  Isn’t that being self-centered and self-focused, the exact opposite of what I think I should do?

This group member went on to say that if I did what I enjoy doing, my maker would figure out how to use it in whatever way was beneficial to all.

Now, I’m one of those people who, before accepting someone’s advice, likes to see if that person actually practices what he or she advises.  (You know the saying, “Does he practice what he preaches?”) And guess what?  This guy does.

He’s nuts about fishing and fishes at the coast in his spare time.  Whatever he catches, he cleans and stores in his freezer.  Last fall, he took out all of his fish and hosted a big fish fry, inviting a ton of people to come over to eat.  Everyone who went enjoyed the fish and the comradery.

How do I apply that to what I enjoy, which is gardening?

I have a few ideas, and they aren’t original to me.

Recently, a poster on Garden Rant mentioned how she and her husband placed a cart in front of their home with a sign that read, “Free Plants.”  She said she and her husband would take all of their extra plants and put them in the cart for people to take.  I thought this was a terrific idea, and I happen to have a small cart that sits outside unused.  The cart needs sprucing up (paint), but it would certainly work for this idea.  It was a curb-side find.

I know I’ll have extra plants (Turk’s caps, cherry laurels, purple heart or Tradescantia pallida, rose of Sharon, and so forth) so why not share?

And there are so many other ways gardening gives back even if I/we don’t intend for it to.  If I plant plants that bloom, they most likely give back to the pollinators.  Trees and shrubs provide shelter and nesting habitat for birds.  Planting trees can reduce carbon in the air.  Composting leaves and grass reduces waste in the landfill.  Last year, I planted a possum haw holly and when it eventually gets berries, the birds will eat them.  Even making something lovely to look at makes the world a better place and sometimes heals…So okay, I can give back in these ways.

In addition, I can take the plants no one claims from the cart to the garden club, and I’m willing to share anything with club members if it might help them in their gardening journey.  My goal is to be a walk-along garden pal with resources.  Then of course, I can share some of the 200 onions I’ve planted.

There’s probably more that gardening gives back that I’m not thinking of.  Feel free to chime in.

Just to be clear, I’m not telling you that you need to give back.—I’m not telling you to do anything.  My feeling is if you garden, you probably already give back anyway. Maybe you knew that? Until now, I hadn’t thought about it.


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