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The Zen of Gardening

April showers bring May flowers! It’s raining today which means I am inside catching up with indoor work and grateful that I was able to garden on the weekend.

While gardens are beautiful to look at, good for the soul, and a benefit to our environment – they also are work! And  before we start to see results in May and  the rest of the summer season, plenty of effort is required.

Yesterday, I was doing the mundane tasks of removing last fall’s leaves off the garden to prevent leaf mold from forming as the spring thaw warmed the air. I was also marking limbs that needed to be trimmed from trees and shrubs. In the next two weeks as the buds appear it will be more obvious which branches have become winter-kill and need to be removed. So for now, I was focusing on the shapes of each tree and direction of growth that I wanted to achieve.

Another task included a rearrangement of odd garden rocks and stepping stones for a more pleasing lay-out. This one puzzled my son-in-law who thought they looked just fine where they were. After I eyed my “improvements”, I began to evaluate how much new mulch would be required to maintain the optimal ground cover to reduce the amount of water the garden would need in the hot days of summer. Apparently, mulching can reduce your water requirements by as much as 30%. I will be using bark mulch again this year, but if you don’t like the look of bark, consider the qualities of these alternative mulches and which one you should use in your garden.

All of these tasks seemed mundane. On the other hand, they all provided me with the health benefits of gardening – one of them being in a state of Zen. When I defined Zen in an earlier blog, I concluded with a favorite definition from the Oxford dictionary: “relaxed and not worrying about things you cannot change”. For me, gardening is definitely relaxing.

When I am working outside, it is easy to feel the Zen of being in the present – focusing only on the task at hand, enjoying the fresh air, getting some weight-bearing exercise, and soaking in nature’s best source of vitamin D. In “Buddhism – The Religion of No-Religion” Alan Watts advises us that: “The way of Buddhism is to let go of yourself…”. My garden is one of the best places in the world for me to “let go” and enjoy the moment.

TIP: To make your gardening more relaxing, make sure you are using comfortable tools that help to reduce the stress and the effort.

What does gardening mean to you? Is it just a lot of hard work  – or does it create a sense of Zen – for you? What are you favorite tools  to make the experience more relaxing?

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