Planting an organic vegetable garden had been a long held dream of mine. Growing up, I was taught the botanical names of plants by following Mum around her garden. Her love of being outside amongst her plants is, I believe, where my gardening dream sprang from.
However, the ideal parterre vegetable patch of Nancy Meyers movies was not to be mine as I share my suburban block with a veritable zoo of native animals – all staking their claim to any sprig of green that emerges from the soil. Possums, brush turkeys and cockatoos have continually wreaked havoc and nearly squashed my idea of home grown produce.
Once we settled into a routine of living with COVID-19 and established a remote learning way of life, I realised it was time to come up with a new plan, and my veggie patch was built. It is now a fully enclosed, timber structure safely clad in aviary wire.
From the beginning of the build, I noticed a change in my thinking. My anxiety about the pandemic and all the stresses it had caused became quietened as I imagined the baskets full of produce I would be harvesting soon.
In the six months since I planted my first seedlings, my veggie patch has become my new addiction, and even the sight of it nestled in my yard gives me great comfort and eagerness to get my hands dirty. I stroll through it each morning before my work day starts, coffee in hand, and look forward to hand watering in the afternoon. An elaborate watering system and timer was included in the build, but the act of taking the hose down the back and watering by hand is a therapy in itself.
Over the winter I have harvested modest quantities of Swiss chard, fennel, carrots, broccoli, and many lettuce. My love of cooking (which I definitely did not inherit from Mum) and feeding my family has always given me comfort. So work day dinners are designed around what looks good from the garden, herbs and greens alike, and always a salad. Lettuce is so easy to grow!
The new spring seedlings are in, many having been grown from seeds I have raised. I am intrigued by the science behind plants and this too gives me a respite from the rigours and demands of school life. Planting my vegetable patch has been the best self-care I have ever experienced. The daily visits to the garden and my Instagram gardening community provide nurturing and balance as I navigate the new normal.
How do you care for your own health and wellbeing? Do you have any gardening tips that you’d like to share with your Wellbeing by Teacher readers? We’d love to hear about it. Email us with a brief outline and we’ll be in touch.