The joy of Easter will soon be ours. This is the perfect time of year to start an Easter garden. Gardening holds connotations of new life, and is a natural companion activity to celebrating the Easter season. Even if you’ve never held a hoe in your life before, you can successfully develop a green thumb and indulge yourself in this natural pleasure.
The benefits will be evident in the beauty of your yard, on your dinner table through the summer, and if you branch out into canning, through the winter months too. Gardening can also be a spiritual, prayerful experience, and a way to really get in touch with God through His creation. Plus, you get to revert to being a child again and dig in dirt, which is probably something you couldn’t otherwise justifiably do.
Last year our family embarked on our first real and extensive gardening project. We had tried growing vegetables and some hardware store-bought flowers here and there over the years, but had never really — dug in.
However, last summer, my dear husband plowed out a large plot, enclosed it with a pretty white picket fence in front, and added an arbor, on which we eventually coaxed some blue and purple Morning Glories to climb. I don’t think doing this much nonessential preparation work was initially what he had in mind when I suggested we simply grow vegetables, but God bless my husband, he was a great sport in making my elaborate backyard vision. He even made a lovely pathway.
We added a statue of St. Francis and then ordered some heirloom seeds for vegetables and flowers. After that, our sunroom became a slow-growing, virtual jungle for a few weeks before transplanting was safe. The results were wonderful!
Each of the children was assigned one section to weed, and we all took pleasure in walking through the garden on summer evenings, plucking ripe produce or just enjoying the flowers interspersed within.
Non-hybrid, heirloom seeds are a popular choice for gardeners, especially for those who want nature’s best benefits. Unlike hybrid, big seed company seeds, saved heirloom seeds can yield a harvest year after year. Most agree that heirloom seeds produce crops that are tastier and higher in nutrients, although not as uniform in color or shape as the grocery store cousins. Search the Internet for “heirloom seeds” to find suppliers, and be sure to include flowers. I love giant marigolds, which grew as tall as my 3 year old last year, and which were an effective and beautiful insect deterrent.
So far, I’ve been describing a plain old garden. Now, here’s the Easter twist.
Traditionally, an Easter garden, which can be large or small, has two main elements. It includes a mound of dirt with a small cross placed upon the mound. Some also add a woven ‘crown of thorns’ from bramble or bare, thorny vine. This, of course, reminds us of the death of Christ. The other element of an Easter Garden is the abundant flowers (and sometimes a homemade empty “tomb”) which appear on Easter Sunday. (You can put just a few representative flowers there on Easter and add more when the climate warms). This, of course stands for Christ’s Resurrection and the joy we experience because of it. You can creatively construct your Easter garden in a small area of where your regular garden will be, in your near-the-house landscaping or even in a little dish, open or ala terrarium style.
Traditional Easter flowers include the lily, the primrose, and daffodil (narcissus) , which symbolizes new birth and which folk legend says bloomed the day of the Resurrection.
Some families add actual figurines to their small, in-home Easter garden during the Tridiuum. If you have trouble finding these commercially (or want to save a few dollars), your children can draw some figurines on cardboard, color them and cut them out. Cover them with clear plastic to make them durable if they’re going outdoors.
Some Catholics like to ask their parish priest to bless the plot that will become their garden and add a statue or two to help them pray. You can flip through magazines or surf the Internet to get inspiration for your garden project.
So include a garden in your Easter plans this week. It can blossom into something you and your family will enjoy.
Starting an Easter garden and continuing with a traditional one will provide your family with beauty and food, as well as the tools to grow spiritually, through Easter … and beyond.
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