The Magic of Metaphors: Care Instructions for Our Gardens and Our Lives, Part 3 of 3

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the Elements for Thriving Series as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This is the final post of three and if you haven’t yet read the first two posts, I invite you to check them out:

balanced rocks with grass in the background

In the Magic of Metaphors: Instructions for Our Gardens and Our Lives Part One, I shared the importance to cultivate a fertile foundation for growth and thriving, along with balancing the growing and ‘doing’ energy, with the restoration of shade, and just “being” more in the busyness of our lives. The post was completed with reminders about the importance of hydration — both in our gardens for hearty growth and in our bodies for optimal health.

Part Two in the Care Instruction series has wisdom nuggets and practical tips with ways to create flourishing gardens by adding rich nutrients and how we can elevate our physical well-being by adding more organic foods to our meal planning.

I shared the importance of pruning our gardens and letting go of the things in our lives that no longer serve us. The post concluded with practices to strengthen our resilience, which has been helpful in finding our way through the pandemic over the past several years.

So, please get comfy and join me in pondering the three final elements …

Fresh zucchini and blossoms from the garden of Toni Gattone

Element for Thriving #7: Plan and Plant with Intention

We all have dreams for our gardens and our lives, so we plant seeds with love, care, and intention for what we want to see grow and flourish. Then we tend to those dreams by making plans and taking action to nurture them and help them sprout and take form. The most challenging part of growing anything is… the waiting.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes
it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~Maya Angelou

After we’ve done all that we can to bring our very best to what we’re growing in our gardens and in our lives then comes the time when practicing patience is our task and our work. This can sometimes be the most difficult and even grueling part of any growth or creative process, but oh, it is so necessary.

As we move into winter, my intention is to continue growing a productive veggie garden overflowing with salad greens and herbs. I’m in the 9b zone and with my new Vegepod (see below), I can garden all winter. As I do, I continue integrating what I’ve learned about drought tolerance as it appears we are going into our fourth year of drought. Meanwhile, I am “working towards” creating a fire-smart landscape.

I also devote time writing in my garden journal, making notes about the health of each plant, and if changes will need to be made for next year’s garden. I know if I don’t write it down, I will make the same mistakes again.

This year, I’m sowing the seeds of intention for my life.

If you want to grow joy, plant seeds of contentment.
If you want to experience freedom, plant seeds of ease.
If you want to be a changemaker, plant seeds of inspiration.
If you want to expand your community, plant seeds of connection.
If you want to live your life in the flow, plant seeds of “I can” and “I am.”

You may want to plant your garden with whatever intentions resonate with you.

Similarly, now that I’ve become more accustomed to my new normal with arthritis, I’m putting careful attention to my intentions while I explore new ways to feel more vibrancy and energy. I’m practicing walking my talk by getting out from behind my computer and out in nature each day. I’m also pausing to stop, stretch, and breathe if I hit a writing block or if I’m not feeling productive, or in the flow.

Element for Thriving #8: Adding Support and Asking for Help

Do you struggle with asking for support when you need it? My garden provides wisdom and insights about how to reframe and think differently which can be a challenge for many of us. There are countless examples of the interconnectedness in nature for how the health and vitality of the trees, plants, birds, and insects rely on each other to support their thriving.

As gardeners, we support the growth, vibrancy, and thriving in our gardens, from what we’ve experienced from nature — and yet, many of us still miss the gifts that come from asking for and receiving support from others.

So, with nature as our example and guide, the following are some of the ways I support my garden and access support for myself in my life…

Care for Your Garden by Adding Support

  1. Support top-heavy flowers like dahlias, peonies, and rudbeckia with supports and tomato plants with tomato ladders, during the growing season.
  2. Utilize the “three sisters” symbiotic companion planting method, where three plants are grown near to deter weeds and pests, enrich the soil, and support each other.
Photo credit: Pamela Crawford

Three Sisters is an agricultural practice where corn, beans, and squash are grown together. The bean benefits by climbing up the corn. The corn benefits by having the squash shade the ground, preserving moisture and keeping the roots cool. Both the squash and corn get fertilized by the bean which is a legume that fixes nitrogen from the air. This is nature at its best and is a perfect example of how plants can truly support each other.

Photo credit: Kathy Hunting, UC Regents

3. Join a garden club or get a plot at a community garden to open the door to learning from other gardening enthusiasts in your community.

4. Inquire with your local County Extension office to become a Master Gardener. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and dispel gardening myths with actual research-based information for your microclimate.

After eleven years as a Master Gardener in Marin County, it’s still a joy to volunteer my time and keep learning about a subject that always keeps my interest.

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others,
you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness
that you are able to give.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Caring for Yourself by Adding Support

  1. Many of us keep our problems and the things we feel challenged by to ourselves and we try to figure out solutions on our own. Based on the academic research of best-selling author Brene Brown, one of the key factors in living a resilient life is cultivating relationships where you reach out for support.
  2. Asking for help can be intimidating, but consider what it feels like when you’re able to help someone else who’s going through a tough time, by being an empathetic ear, and by sharing your own similar experiences. Remember when we ask for help, we allow others to be of support, which for most people feels pretty darn good.
  3. Most doctors will agree that what we think of as aging can be slowed down by three things: exercising, having an active social life, and yes, you guessed it,… gardening! When you combine all three, you’ve hit the jackpot for supporting your health!
  4. Besides eating well, walking is the single best thing we can do for ourselves. Ask a friend or neighbor to walk with you not only to support your physical health but also to get the *bonus* of connection, which is always good for our well-being.

Element for Thriving: #9 Protecting Our Gardens and Our Well-being

When we care for something and we’re invested in its thriving, we have to look out for and protect against things that can be harmful.

Being mindful of how we protect and take good care of ourselves is part of tending to our health, safety, and well-being.

  1. Protect yourself by avoiding repetitive moments for an extended period. Try the 20-20-20 rule where you don’t spend more than 20 minutes at a time using the same muscles.
  2. Take breaks often and incorporate seating in the shade, especially when temperatures are high.

And remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I like these Alpex water bottles. They are lightweight stainless steel, BPA-free, and insulated to keep your drinks cold or hot.

  1. Protect your back by incorporating waist high elevated raised beds and vertical gardens into your garden. Your back will thank you.
  2. Remember to use the proper form when bending over to pick something. Lift with your knees, not your back.

Whatever you do, carry your cell phone with you, just in case.

  1. Protect your hands and save your cuticles from drying out by wearing quality, well-made gloves and gauntlets, especially when you are pruning roses, berries, lemons, or any shrubs that have thorns. You’ll be glad you did.

These Foxglove gauntlets are faux leather and they wash up beautifully and will last for years to come.

  1. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 45 to your skin.

Also important is to look for the UPF 50 rating when you shop for long-sleeved clothing to protect your arms and wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun off your face.

I love Sunday Afternoons Hats because they last forever and they have a large assortment to choose from. All are UPF50 which is the best sun protection you can have for all your apparel.

  1. Wear the right shoes with a secure back on the heel instead of wearing flip-flops and taking the chance you will slide right out of them.
  2. If your doctor tells you to wear a brace, do it. It won’t prevent you from hurting yourself but it will remind you to be careful.
  3. Protect yourself from falls by avoiding getting on a ladder. It is the #1 reason people over 65 years old have to go to the emergency room.

Instead, replace it with a stepstool that has a grab bar on top for safety.

Safety always comes first.

Protecting Our Gardens

As gardeners, we know that tending to our gardens is about being proactive to prevent weather, disease, and animals from destroying or diminishing the health and abundance of the fruits, veggies, and flowers we pour our time and energy into.

  1. For areas that get full sun throughout the day, that could use a little break during the high temperatures, consider adding a protective shade option, like a shade hoop or shade tunnel.
  2. Protect your plants from cold temperatures and high winds by covering your garden beds and containers with frost blankets and row covers. Whether you are protecting your plants from heat or cold, check out Gardeners Supply for a great assortment.
  3. To keep insects, pests, and birds away from your plants, treat yourself to one of the best-elevated beds I have found. It’s a Vegepod. It’s easy to move around on wheels, it’s self-watering from the bottom and it sprays water from the top.
  4. To keep larger animals like deer or rabbits out of your garden, try chicken wire or polyethylene fencing. There are also easy-to-use chicken wire cloches that can be added to specific plants.

I am blown away by how much I’ve grown from seed this year because the birds and squirrels can’t feast on our veggies and salad greens because of Vegepod’s smart and innovative canopy.

That completes my three-part blog series. I hope you have enjoyed it and have gained insight that helps you to have a vibrant and resilient life and garden.

I’m always eager to hear from you. Here are a few questions for you to consider answering…

  1. What seeds are you planting for your garden and your life this coming year?
  2. How have you reached out for support in your life?
  3. What are some new ways you learned to protect yourself in your garden or your life?

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