The first of February means it’s time for things to start getting ready in the garden.  Soil needs to be turned, seedlings started, layouts planned, irrigation systems checked and rebuilt, and countless other items that go along with gardening.  

Where I live, our gardens are in raised beds or in containers because of the soil conditions here, but more and more there is a trend for gardens to be in nontraditional locations.  “Ask This Old House” featured a rooftop garden at a mall just this past Saturday.  New York City has turned an abandoned raised freight train line into a public park called “The High Line.” Even the local hospital has set aside land which people can rent to garden.

Learning to garden, raising your own food, at least part of it, should be a requirement for all people.  We are blessed to live with the luxuries we have today but it would take much for what seems like a never ending supply at the corner market to dry up and many Americans to be left starving and confused. 

But gardening isn’t only about feeding the body.  We need to learn the trade so that we can also learn to feed our minds, our souls, and our spirits as well.  Raising a garden takes things many Americans don’t seem to have much of anymore, time, patience, and a bit of caring. 

We ate very much an instant gratification society.  This was never more apparent than when our two year old couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long for the little dirt pods to expand and hydrate so we could plant some seeds into them.  It was a good lesson, though he’s really too young to understand, that to do something properly, it takes more time to prepare for an action than it often does to to complete the action itself.

And yet gardening does more than give us food.  Gardening teaches us patience, resourcefulness, respect, tenderness and caring.  I am going to garden with and around my foster kids, because they need some of all this in their lives.  

Plus, when you let them pick and establish their own gardens, kids get to see the fruits of working the soil and caring for the plants.  They get to enjoy berries that are a little sweeter, corn that is juicer, and salads that are more crisp because they picked this things earlier that day and then helped make them into a meal.  

And whether or not they stay with us for a lifetime or just a season, they’ll leave with a bit of knowledge that will help them get through those hard times.  For we aren’t just giving them their food, we are teaching them to grow and cultivate it as well.