Patrick Morris, an ordained pastor, says he is connected to the soil.
Written by Reading Eagle
I am 64 years old and live with my wife of 43 years, Sharon, in Lower Alsace Township. I am an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, serving St. Paul’s UCC, Fleetwood.
Why gardening is important: For me gardening is an extension of my spirit. It is in my garden that I remain connected to the soil. It is where I contemplate and regenerate for the work that I do as a pastor.
How his garden reflects his personality: Prior to becoming a pastor, I was a farmer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. My wife and I had a dairy, raised turkeys and sheep and farmed about 400 acres. My garden is my way of continuing a way of living that was dear to me prior to going into the ministry.
Greatest garden success: We moved to our current home following a brief time in a subdivision. Sharon and I were not satisfied on such a small space so we found our 2 acres and built a home. Surrounded by a abundance of deer, foxes, turkeys and an assortment of other wildlife, I established my raised-bed garden complete with a 7-feet tall fence to keep the deer out and chicken wire on the bottom to stop groundhogs and other critters.
Worst garden mistake: I’m not sure. I never see anything as a mistake. Instead I chalk it up as a learning experience. Raised-bed gardening was new to me four years ago. Everything I did four years ago had the potential of being a mistake. But I learned each new season since them, what works, what doesn’t and what I need to do differently.
Favorite plant and season: I will have to say my tomatoes. I try to get them in on or before May 10. I love pruning and guiding their ascent up the wire panel that supports them. The process makes for great sermon illustrations! Cucumbers are a very close second. The cucumber has to be the smartest plant God ever created. I love to watch it weave its way up my fence snaking its way in and out of the staves in the fence.
Favorite gardening book or resource: I never read a book about gardening, per say. I learned to garden when I was a child, growing up in a family of eight children. Gardening was a way of life. So I learned by doing. When planning my raised beds I surfed the internet and studied designs, placement and materials best for construction.
Best advice: Having the ability to control the moisture is huge in raised-bed gardening, and knowing what plants need water and when. In 2018 my garden was a disaster because of all the rain. But not this year. I learned which beds drained the best and planted my 2019 garden accordingly.
By the way: I should add that I have incorporated chickens and ducks into my garden space. Each has access to my garden and will be allowed to glean when the season has ended, fertilizing my beds as they go for the new season. I also use composted chicken, duck and horse manure with grass clippings as compost.
Growing Well appears Mondays and features insights and advice from local gardeners. If you are interested in contributing to this column, contact us at [email protected]
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Every desert gardening book recommends October as the prime month of the year for planting. By now plans should be made, resources checked out, and maybe even a few plants or seeds purchased. Planting at this point allows time for development of a sturdy root system before the plants’ first hot summer. With cooler autumn temperatures, new plants also escape any drying hot winds while recovering from transplant shock.
The average date for the first frost this season is in late November, so there is still time for plants to become established before cold weather may appear. Keep in mind that native and desert-adapted plants are easiest to care for and the least demanding.
For vivid winter color, it is time to start setting out transplants of your favorite annuals. For either the garden or containers, first consider the tried-and-true: pansies, violas, petunias, sweet alyssum, stock, and calendula. Most of these flowering plants survive or even thrive with little or no cold protection during our commonly mild desert winters.
If perennials are preferred, there are: blackfoot daisy, chuparosa, Mt. Lemmon marigold, fairy duster, moss verbena, chocolate flower, or any of the many colorful salvias. For a large space, check out accent plants and small shrubs such as: desert spoon, woolly butterfly bush, black dalea, creosote, or any number of agaves and prickly pear options. Among even larger shrubs, consider Arizona rosewood, hop-bush, Texas mountain laurel, jojoba, yellowbells, aloysia, or cassias.
Nearly all types of cold-hardy groundcovers, shrubs, trees and vines develop strong roots and thrive when planted this month. Trees included are cultivars of Texas ebony, palo verde, hackberry, sweet acacia, mastic, and desert willow. However, do not plant palm trees which do not accept cool soils; wait until May.
If your interest is vegetables, there is still time to set out transplants of broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, shallots, and onion sets. Plant seeds of Swiss chard, spinach, radishes, arugula, and any of various lettuce types.
For drip irrigation systems, as temperatures cool reset the controller so watering is done less frequently. However, the duration of each cycle should remain the same throughout the year. A 4-inch layer of mulch around plants will help conserve moisture, insulate roots, and discourage winter weeds. Oh yes, there are winter weeds in the desert!
A world of garden options will be available for your choosing at Green Valley Gardeners’ Annual Fall Plant Sale on Oct. 24 through 26, starting at 9 a.m. each day. This major fundraiser held in the shady, northeast corner of Continental Shopping Plaza supports a number of local community outreach projects. Bring your garden ideas and stop to pick up a burst of autumn planting enthusiasm!
Mary Kidnocker is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who lives in the Green Valley area. Her articles are featured weekly.
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I am lucky. I grew up in a family that had amazing connections to the land. We regularly grew vegetables for meals and the extended growing season meant we had something fresh almost year round.
I left for school, not realizing how the grounding activities that surrounded my childhood had kept me feeling stable and secure. Once I arrived in the dorms, I was quickly swept away with how chaotic everything felt.
The one thing I missed most?
It took me longer than I like to admit to realize that I was missing that connection with the seasons, and my mental health suffered for it. I struggled with depression and anxiety for nearly a decade before recognizing that part of my problem was the lack of access to plants.
Although nutrition, exercise, and therapy are all very important, many people talk to me about how they need something more.
For me, rediscovering the natural rhythms made the biggest difference. Planning certain vegetables based on the time of year, eating locally grown foods who had been through the same droughts or deluges I had, and generally getting dirty for that grounding connection gave me something beyond what current man-made research can do.
I was missing that connection with the seasons, and my mental health suffered for it.
Gardening itself is very helpful in a mindfulness practice: the smell of the dirt, the taste of the vegetables or herbs, and the feel of different leaves can all add depth to your mindfulness space. Evidence suggests friendly microbes in the soil may even work to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Take time to bring a little nature into your space. If you have a backyard, use it. If you’re in a smaller space, there are all kinds of nifty ways to get into container gardening.
Feast your eyes on my mother’s unbelievable rosemary plant.
Don’t let an initial failure discourage you: lots of gardening is trial and error. My mother has an enormous rosemary plant, but I cannot even remember how many she couldn’t get to thrive before this one.
My granddaddy is 93 and gardens every year, but even now he is learning things. Just last year I was able to teach him that he was planting his radishes too deep and that’s why they never grew.
No matter who you are or where you are, there are ways to make gardening work. A meta analysis showed those people who garden have increases in quality of life and sense of community… and its introduction concludes by saying “a regular dose of gardening can improve public health”.
Don’t let an initial failure discourage you: lots of gardening is trial and error.
This past spring: 92 and still starting tomatoes from seed.
Take time for the outdoors and enjoying hikes through nature. But also take on the challenge of creating your own foods. Begin to feel the centering and grounding that can come from the “zen” of concentrating on those plants. You will thank yourself. 🙂
Some of my plants during an Easter egg hunt this past spring.
Larabeth hosts a weekly podcast through the Natural Wellness Transformations school. These 20 minute blurbs focus on natural health and utilizing several modalities for long term wellness.
Click here for ways to listen
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MUNCIE — The Growing Through Gardening Expo will be 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at Minnetrista. There is no pre-registration for the free event, which is sponsored by the Delaware County Master Gardeners in partnership with Minnetrista.
Four speakers will present six talks throughout the day:
- Karen Golden- owner of Michigan Heirlooms, Master Gardener and Certified Horticulturist will speak about heirloom tomatoes at 8:45 a.m. and about seed starting at 12:15 p.m.
- Helen Steussy, physician and creator of a 30-acre authentic native prairie near New Castle, will speak about “Gardening with Nature” at 9:55 a.m.
- Martha Ferguson, owner of Riverview Nursery, Spencerville,and an Advanced Master Gardener and Master Naturalist, will speak about “Edible Native Landscapes” at 11 a.m. and “Gardening in Harmony with Nature” at 1:20 p.m.
- Paul Rothrock, botanist and plant taxonomist; Emeritus Professor at Taylor University and Emeritus Research Scientist and Curator at Indiana University, will speak about “e-Flora, Deam’s Collections for Modern Gardeners” at 2:30 p.m.
The event also will include demonstrations of drone use in agriculture, rain barrels, succulent plants and herbs. There will be informational exhibits, make and take projects, door prizes, and a silent auction, as well as a fun and interactive kids’ area focused on pollinators and a scavenger hunt.
The Farmers Market at Minnetrista will be open until noon, the Orchard Shop until 5:30 p.m. and Minnetrista’s gardens will be available to explore between presentations.
Artists invited to draw in orchid greenhouse
MUNCIE — Amateur and professional artists and art-inclined members of the community are invited to draw and sketch “en plein air” — indoors — amid the orchids and tropical plants at the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse at Ball State University 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.
This event is free and open to the public. Artists should taken their own supplies.
Parking is available in lot G13 off University Avenue, with metered parking also available on University Avenue. Overflow parking is available to the west (near the picnic shelter, C3) and east (near the tennis courts, G15).
Sen. Braun’s staff to visit Muncie
MUNCIE, Ind. — The mobile office for U.S. Senator Mike Braun’s staff will be available in Muncie Oct. 15.
Staffers will be available to help Muncie-area constituents 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 15 at the Delaware County Building, 100 W. Main St.
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