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As my garden grows, my peace and joy follow

Columnist Emily Carson says her garden is a sanctuary, but unfortunately, a hungry rabbit feels the same.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig
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Every growing season offers its own, unique lessons. Alongside all the beauty and abundance, there are heartbreaks and disappointments. I plant seeds and tend them as a hobby and don’t depend on the produce for our household’s livelihood, so the garden setbacks are never catastrophic. But every year certainly provides a deepened appreciation for the generations of people who have faced innumerable complexities in order to grow food for their families and communities.

Some of this year’s lessons have been sweet and others have been quite bitter.

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First, the sweet. The garden is a 30-second walk from the back door of our home. This season, I have learned to relish those steps rather than rush. At a slightly slower pace, the walk feels like traveling through a mysterious portal. In past seasons, I’ve hurried out the door and right into the soil. This year, I’m savoring the brief stroll more than usual.

The journey is its own nourishment. Somehow, the closer I get to the garden gate, the more grounded I become. It is as if all the green leaves radiate out the power of perspective. As I step across the threshold from yard into garden, I don’t feel riddled with the usual worries and ruminations. Suddenly, there is space again for awe and presence.

There have been plenty of challenging lessons over the last few months. Despite extensive rabbit-proofing efforts, one of the small furry mammals somehow got in a few weeks ago. I’m still attempting to catch it with a live trap, but in the meantime, it has eaten through a host of flowers. All of the asters I started back in March as tiny seeds are whittled down to sticks. The globe amaranth has been picked off one by one. The peas are history. The beet and carrot tops, too. It’s astounding how much that critter can consume. I sometimes notice its cute little ears when I’m watering. At this point, the rabbit is so comfortable it practically waves a “hello” in my direction before scampering off into the dense foliage of the squash plants.

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The Japanese beetles have left me utterly exasperated. A truly invasive, incorrigible species. I remember encountering one back in early July and dismissing it entirely. Having seen only a few in all of last summer, I didn’t think much of it, but they’ve been a continuous, highly damaging problem ever since. The Kentucky pole beans must have been especially delicious, because their leaves look like plant skeletons. The nearby okra as well as the lemon balm and zinnia leaves were devoured, too. Some people recommend special traps and others soapy water. I never fully committed to any strategy, so I’ll work on a plan before the next growing season is upon us (suggestions appreciated).

A pleasant awareness gleaned over the last several months has been the joy of garden experimentation. As it turns out, the ground cherries (a first this season) are growing magnificently, and Justin and I both enjoy the flavor (any favorite recipes?). Every day I gently shake the six bushes and watch as a handful of tiny paper lanterns fall to the ground.

Justin helped me construct two lovely trellises early last spring, and those, too, have been a delightful way to expand the growing area. The cucumber varieties we planted at the bases all grow much slower than the gourds that have overtaken the supportive structures. Next year we’ll have to add a third trellis exclusively for cucumbers. In the meantime, I am elated for what may well be a prolific gourd harvest in the fall, and it’s a variety, called Mesilla Large Dipper, whose seeds I purchased through the nonprofit seed conservation organization Native Seeds.

The garden is my laboratory, library and sanctuary all in one. May all who tend plants recognize the cherished lessons we encounter along the way – each and every season

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Emily Carson finds pleasure through the growing season in her backyard garden.
Contributed / Emily Carson

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website emilyannecarson.com .

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