The Gardener

The Gardener by Mary Jo Hudson, Regular Contributor
 
It came to my attention this week that not everyone is a gardener.  I should know that.  Because I anticipate spring and the warm weather primarily because of the flowering plants and the ability to dig in the dirt, it seems like a new revelation that not everyone likes dirt under their fingernails.
 
When the Women of Valor met via Zoom this week to discuss the Chasing Vines study, we talked about the stages of growth.  This will detail the steps I take when I start my garden.
 
I like to start my own seeds.  Often, I save seeds from the flowers or vegetables from the previous year.  I also purchase vegetable seeds.  I start my seeds in trays with 1” wide by 3” deep pots.  If you purchase plants at a nursery, you may know what I’m describing.  There is a special seed starting ‘soil’ mix that is very light weight. It retains the moisture well, which is important for seeds to germinate.  I cover the trays with a clear plastic lid that serves to retard evaporation.  It allows the sunlight to urge the germination and tease the plant upwards. Beneath these trays, I place a warming mat, similar to a heating pad.  It keeps the soil at a warm temperature to encourage the life within the seed to spring forth.  I use a solarium as the location for starting seeds but a sunny window sill works, too.
 
Once the seed has germinated and broken through the surface of the starting mix, two leaves develop.  But these leaves are not the defining shaped leaf that would identify the plant.  The identifiable leaves are ‘second leaves’.  Once the second leaves have emerged and the plant continues to grow, it’s time for a transplant.
 
The next container for the baby plant is larger to allow for space for roots to grow deep and spread out.  The soil mixture changes, too.  The next level of soil contains nutrients for the roots to absorb and fortify the plant as it grows.  The soil is heavier, a blend of compost and potting soil is what I use.  My compost is vermiculture, available at some garden centers, or a result of the worm farm I use to consume vegetable scraps.  I mix it half and half with a potting soil.
 
Potting soil has white flecks of vermiculite in it.  Vermiculite also helps to keep the soil moist and prevents the soil from compacting with the percentage of moisture.  The plants continue to grow and create new leaves.  By this time, the lids above the plants are not generally necessary.  I do need to check more frequently for moisture in the soil.  And, now, I begin to train the plants.
 
I turn a fan on in the room where they grow.  The fan causes the stems to grow stronger to withstand the velocity.  Without this force, the plant would only grow upward, developing ‘leggy’ plants:  too much height to withstand any force.  The air movement forces the roots to hang on for dear life and it actually makes the stems thicker and more durable.
 
Depending upon the variety of plant and the weather conditions it likes, plants may move from the warmth and shelter of the solarium to my cold frame.  This structure has sides and a lid that is slanted at an angle so the sun’s rays can multiply the heat in this outside space.  I leave the lid closed at night but open it during the day to let a breeze come in.  Once the plant has grown accustomed to the rigors of outside temperature ranges, it may be time for it to move again to its final resting place.
 
The garden:  the environment in which this growing plant can find the optimal conditions to grow and bear fruit.  Keep in mind, I don’t anticipate fruit when the seed goes into the soil.  The time from seed to transplanting into the garden has spanned six to twelve weeks, depending upon the plant and variety and its specific demands.  
 
Each kind of plant requires different and unique conditions to properly grow and develop.  The squash gets different treatment from the tomatoes.  The potatoes and beans are planted at different times and with different expected outcomes.  Each plant needs special attention and provision for it to bear fruit.
 
Tomatoes like to be buried deeply.  They need specific nutrients to grow into sturdy plants that will bear much fruit.  They need support to grow vertically.  They need to be pruned so all the energy isn’t used to make leaves and branches, but to focus on fruit development.  This requires the assistance of a persistent and attentive gardener.  The insects and blight that love tomatoes require perceptive eyes and attention to prevent what could and would easily overtake the tomato plant, leaving it ill and unable to bear fruit.
 
All this information parallels the life we each have with Christ.  Once we give our hearts and minds to Christ, we need to be kept in the faith with encouragement and teaching from our brothers and sisters.  There is a need to be watered  faithfully to grow and develop roots.  Not much is expected at first because we are just coming out of our shells and beginning to grow.  But once we start to develop, new soil, new expectations, new teachings help us become strong.  Trials will require us to stand firm and extend our roots deeply and though the storms batter us, we must develop a thick skin to know how to withstand those storms.  
 
Still, it isn’t till God moves us to the place he expects and anticipates full growth, maturity if you will, that we send roots deep to anchor us.  Deep roots absorb the nutrients necessary for growth.  One nutrient isn’t sufficient for growth and development.  It’s generally a combination.  Some plants need more nitrogen; others require heavy amounts of calcium for optimal fruiting.  Some of us need worship; others require prayer as the lifeline of growth.  All of it is important but it will be in different proportions for each of us.
 
Our environments will vary.  Some of us will be cloistered in our homes with children or loved ones; others will be in the work place; some teach; some research; some work with their hands; some use their minds; some use their bodies as vessels of employment.  Wherever we have been planted, it behooves us to depend upon the Word, prayer, fellowship with the Lord as our source in the perfect ratio for our optimal growth.
 
I love the book of James.  I struggle with the message.  Count it all joy when troubles come my way.  Why?  My weakness makes me dependent upon God.  This is what strengthens me in my faith, my trust, my every need.  Dependent is the only way to survive and thrive. 
 
God’s world is upside down from what we see in the world today.  But, He is faithful to teach us if we will observe the principles at work in creation.  He doesn’t expect fruit from a seed.  But, he expects us to create a lot of seeds and scatter them once we are mature.
 
Our goal should be to seek the environments conducive to maturity so we can be fruitful.  The next time you consume a fruit or vegetable, count the seeds within it.  Often, there are many seeds.  Each seed, planted will generate many fruits, each containing many seeds.  The multiplication is beyond what I can calculate in my brain.  This is how Christ sees the expansion of His kingdom.  One seed germinating, growing, maturing, multiplying.  What an amazing example.

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