As the light starts to noticeably return I start to think of spring and what I want to grow in this year’s garden. To get further into the mood as I pull out my seed catalogs and ooh and ahh over the beautiful pictures of vegetables, fruits and flowers, I often listen to Lisa Thiel’s The Spirit of the Plants. That “beautiful dancing green woman” is the Earth Goddess and I am her beautiful dancing green (thumb) daughter. It’s time to immerse myself in the gardening spirit.
The spirit of the plants has come to me
in the form of a beautiful dancing green woman (repeat)
Her eyes fill me with peace
her dance fills me with peace (repeat)
“Spirit of the Plants” by Lisa Thiel from her album “Journey to the Goddess“
Gardening, spiritual and practical
Gardening is at its heart is a soul nourishing activity for me, even though there are the frustrations of a failed harvest now and then. There are a lot of practical things to consider when planting and maintaining a garden, but there is also the aesthetic and spiritual side as well, which this song is good at reminding me.
- How do I want to lay things out to be pleasing to the eye?
- And how will the plants support each other and tend to the earth so that there is not depletion of the soil or a build up of disease?
- How do I work with nature rather than against it?
- Do I want to plant a little extra so I won’t be as irritated with the animals who will invariably be excited to partake in my abundance?
- Or to plant extra to pass some on to the local soup kitchen/ food bank to feed those less fortunate than I?
Thinking beyond myself helps me to stay in touch with my place in the web of life and the turning of the wheel, and how it all works together. It helps me stay in a mindset of generosity and gratitude. Knowing the right time to plant and what and where is as much a spiritual practice as a practical one.
Speaking of the spiritual side, playing pagan music about the earth while you plan your garden can remind you that working with plants is a sacred act. Here’s a whole playlist of pagan music for the earth. My crowsister compiled it on Spotify.
The seeds of your magical garden
Even though it is still cold in many places, spring is nearby and it is time to think about planting and that means choosing seeds. Many seeds can be planted indoors way before the last frost date so that they will be ready to plant outside as soon as there is no danger of freezing. Tomatoes, peppers and everything else in that family as well as the brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts can all be planted ahead. So the time to start thinking about and ordering seeds is now!
When I’m picking out my seeds I always like to try a few new varieties just for the fun of it and to also rethink mistakes made the previous year, whether it be low germination of certain seeds or a lack of thriving due to placement, bugs or disease. These issues help me decide what varieties I might want to try and also which seed companies I might buy from. Switching from heirloom tomatoes more prone to verticulum wilt to hybrid seeds that are more resistant is just one of the changes I’m going to try this year. But mostly I like to buy seeds that are not hybrids so I can collect the seed if I want, which seems so much more sustainable and egalitarian.
Finding quality seeds
Here’s a few tips on buying seeds and planning what to plant where and when:
Buy from smaller conscientious seed companies like Territorial, Johnnys, Baker Creek, Native Seeds Search, Seeds Savers Exchange. These companies are committed to the health of the earth and increasing food diversity which is important in these times of global warming and reduction of species. You might also want to look into small companies that are growing their seed stock in your area so you can be sure that the varieties you buy will work in your climate.
Join a local garden club and seed swap. You probably don’t need all the seeds that come in a tomato packet and can split them with others while getting other varieties, and there is often a lot of plant sharing as well.
If you have a small garden and don’t have a lot of room for error, buy from a reputable seed company that tests their germination rates and make sure they are high like Johnny’s.
If you like trying new things and don’t mind taking risks, Baker Creek seeds are fun. They have the most interesting varieties around and source from all around the world. Unfortunately germination can be an issue with some of their seeds.
Garden planning and management
What will I plant in my spring, summer and fall garden? Working with the time of year helps plants thrive and produce the tastiest food. For instance, summer carrots can be incredibly bland but harvested in the fall as the nights get colder produces sweet delicious roots. Pea plants, lettuce and spinach thrive in cooler weather and are better planted in the spring and fall rather than mid summer. Other crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans love the hot weather and won’t ripen if too cold.
Keep a map of where you plant what, and be sure to rotate different plant families around so that you don’t plant tomatoes for instance in the same place as last year or the year before. The plants will be happier with less chance for disease which will make for an easier and more joyful gardening spirit experience for you!
The fall is a great time to prepare the soil for the following year’s planting by adding nutrients through compost and manure but if you haven’t done that or are starting a new garden, adding these components as soon as the soil can be worked will get you excited to plant and also give the soil time to settle before you plant in case the compost/manure is a little hot. More and more we are realizing that the earth is wise and often needs less intervention rather than more. No-till farming is now understood to be the most sustainable method as it keeps carbon in the ground and also allows the soil microbiology that is integral in nourishing the plants to stay in tact. For that reason I try to plant in raised beds that I never walk on so that the soil will keep from getting compacted. I add the nutrient rich additions to the top few inches without disturbing more.
If you are feeling particularly witchy and want to make gardening a spiritual endeavor as well as a practical one. To bring the spirit of the plants to you, you might want to add some other magical practices to your gardening this year such as planting by the moon, adding a little altar in your garden to honor the plant spirits, and investigating the magical properties of the herbs and foods you are growing. And of course sing to your plants!