As gardeners know, some plants need their best buddies nearby in order to flourish.
It’s been known for centuries that planting certain combinations of plants together can help the garden prosper. This practice is known as “companion planting.”
For instance, planting alliums such as garlic underneath roses can protect the latter against blackspot and aphids. When lilies and roses are planted together, the scent of each improves.
Yarrow and foxglove have a tonic effect on the plants in their vicinity. Yarrow helps fight off pests, attracts beneficial insects, and improves the soil. Likewise, foxglove stimulates the growth of nearby plants and helps them build up resistance to disease. Planting foxglove under fruit trees improves the storage qualities of the fruit.
Perhaps the ultimate companion plant is marigold. It has traditionally been grown with tomatoes to keep them healthy and produce a better crop. Marigold’s pungent odour disguises the scent of vegetables from pests, preventing them from homing in, and its root secretions kill nematodes that attack plant roots.
Who wouldn’t want such stalwart companions in their corner?
God wants us to have buddies like these on our team, too.
Weeding the garden, like forgiving, is a task that’s never-ending.
We can’t simply say, “I weeded last week, so I’m done now. I won’t need to weed for the rest of the season.”
Every gardener know that the weeds will keep cropping up. The job of weeding is one that lasts for as long as you have a garden.
So it is with forgiving those who have offended or hurt us. Forgiving is not optional for believers: we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us.
But sometimes we think that it’s a “one-and-done” effort. We grudgingly forgive someone once, and assume we’re done with it.
Inevitably, though, we learn that it doesn’t work that way. The next week, we might ruminate about what they did to us and get mad all over again. We find there’s still a root of bitterness in our heart, and we have to forgive them once more.
Like weeding, the duty to forgive is ongoing. It may require more “rinse and repeat” cycles than you might imagine.
Is it just my imagination, or do weeds actually grow faster than the flowers I’m trying to nurture?
Gardeners will know what I’m talking about. Weeds seem to be gifted with internal steroids that accelerate their growth, outpacing the delicate flowers that we’ve brought home from the garden centre.
Weeds don’t seem to be affected by lack of rain or by intense heat. They’ll grow just about anywhere. They’re speed demons of growth compared to the flowers we try to baby along with regular watering and fertilizing.
I looked into this crucial issue on behalf of readers of The Faith Cafe, and found that weeds do have some competitive advantages.
Weeds which are perennials have the benefit of established root systems that have been alive for many years; these dormant roots have a lot of stored energy. Perennial weeds grow faster and are harder to kill than annuals.
Weeds are already acclimated to the region’s soil, and are highly adaptable. They’re usually native plants that thrive in the local ecosystem, unlike plants from the garden centre which may be non-native and need time to adjust.
Weed seeds are already present in our garden soil. They bide their time until the right conditions present themselves, and then race out of the soil. They’re often excellent self-propagators and are opportunistic growers.
All these things give weeds a head start over the flowers we favour.
This got me thinking:
Why do the “weeds” of our character grow better than the fruits of the Spirit?
Are there lessons we can learn from the natural world?
Gardeners know that storms can wreak terrible havoc with their plant friends.
If the winds are strong enough, mature trees can be downed, leaving a gaping hole where they once stood.
In a garden, the loss of a large tree upsets the ecosystem of the area. It changes all manner of things, from the shade afforded plants in the understory, to the strength of the wind that buffets them, to the amount of rain reaching the ground. The entire microclimate is affected.
But the subtraction of a tree also presents new opportunities for a gardener.
Suddenly, more sunlight and rain can reach the area. There is space now for new plants or trees to grow that couldn’t before. Where once the gardener was limited to plants suitable only for shade, now he or she can consider roses, vegetables or other sun-loving plants.
So I suppose a storm’s effects aren’t always strictly negative for gardeners.
But what about the storms of life? Is there anything good that can come when some disaster leaves a gaping hole in our lives?
If you’re a young seedling trying to survive, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be set upon by a cutworm.
Gardeners know this all too well. We start seeds indoors early in the season, with grand visions of the sturdy and beautiful plants they’ll eventually become. We baby the seedlings and give them just the right amount of water and light to set them on their journey to a bright future.
But then, soon after we’ve planted the seedlings in their forever home in our garden, disaster strikes.
The dreaded cutworm arrives in the night and stealthily attacks our precious young plants. It eats through their tender stems at ground level, cutting them off at the knees, as it were.
When we eagerly bound outside in the morning to check on the progress of our young charges, we’re confronted with a garden plot that has been laid waste in the most cruel way. Severed young plants lie helplessly wilting, cut off from the roots supplying them with sustenance. There is no hope for them now: they will surely die.
What makes it worse is that the cutworm hasn’t even bothered to eat the whole seedling, like a rabbit would: it seems to have acted out of sheer spite.
The cutworm has done its worst, and all we can do is mourn.
I’m overdramatizing this, of course, but the frustration, anger and sense of powerlessness gardeners feel when faced with the cutworm’s nefarious deeds are very real.
Even if you’re not a gardener, you’ve probably experienced emotions like these in your life. I’m sure we all have.
Because there will always be people trying to cut you down to size.
You can get all manner of products printed with this slogan: T-shirts, mugs, posters, and notecards.
But is that always the best advice? Maybe not. There’s something to be said for not staying in the same place for too long.
Your garden will tell you that if you plant the same type of vegetable in the same plot year after year, you’ll notice that the health of the plant and the yield it produces will begin to suffer. The plant will be attacked by more diseases and pests, and the nutrients in the soil will have been depleted by past crops of the same type.
The answer to this problem? Crop rotation.
Don’t plant the same type of vegetable or crop in the same location several years running. Mix it up; plant something new in that spot.
What about in life?
Does God intend us to stay rooted to the same location for much of our lives?
Finally! At long last we’re starting to see signs of spring here in Toronto.
There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but the tiny snowdrops in my garden are already shyly blooming. The tulips are just starting to poke the tips of their leaves above the ground like a periscope, as if checking to see whether it’s safe to emerge.
“The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.” (Song of Solomon 2:12 NLT)
After a long winter, it makes my heart sing to see the beginnings of spring.
But do the flowers and trees themselves sing? And if they do, what is their song telling us?