One of the fun intersections in my life is the overlap of witchcraft and gardening. There is something powerfully satisfying about growing my own food. Equally, there is something powerfully magickal about working directly with the land spirits I live with. Those two streams combine to make one of the quietest but most profound sources of magick in my personal practice.
One of the reasons people are drawn to paganism is its potential for connection. There’s a deep sense of isolation in so many people – isolation from Spirit, from other humans, from the other species on this planet. So many of us are heartbreakingly lonely. Rebuilding the bonds between humans and the rest of the planet is a big focus of my work, both personally and in my community.
I love the natural inclinations of humans – we really do have good instincts. It’s been fascinating to watch so many people get into gardening during the pandemic. My neighborhood has never looked so beautiful. Over the summer and fall, I watched people transform barren lawns and sparse beds into flowers and food. There are new bird houses and squirrel feeders, slender saplings and young hedgerows. People knew on an instinctual level that if they couldn’t connect with other humans in person, it was time to reach out to the Green Ones, the Flying Ones, the Burrowing Ones, and all the other Beings that make up the flora, fauna, and fungi of their immediate environments.
In my region, the Mid-Atlantic, February marks the beginning of gardening season. There may be a foot or two of snow on the ground, but the seed catalogs have arrived and it’s time to plan. I end up spending a fair bit of time with catalogs, my seed collection, graph paper, markers and lists as I dream my summer garden into being.
As my relationship with the land spirits where I live and my love of gardening began to overlap more and more, I noticed a shift in the perspective I apply to my own garden. I thought I’d offer up some points to consider if you’re poring over seed catalogues and dreaming the spring to come.
Communicate. Talk to your Land Spirits. I like to begin by making offerings and expressing gratitude. Explain what you’re trying to accomplish with your garden. Be open to suggestion and feedback. Remember, these are Beings just as you are. They have opinions about what happens on their ‘body’ – the land and all the creatures that dwell there. Watch for signs. Learn their language. Mine are fond of using butterflies and moths to get a message across. Some of my gardener friends get more of their messages from birds. There’s a blog about getting to know your land spirits here.
Remember, humans haven’t always been good to the land. I live within the city limits of a medium-sized city. As in many places, the healthy soil where my home is built was removed and sold. A thin layer of sod covers rock and clay. I am working to amend the soil, to make choices that enrich the land on which I live. My land spirits became a lot more talkative when they were able to watch me back up intention with action. Yours may be similar. Give it time, make good choices, and be respectful. If you can earn the friendship of your land spirits, your garden will be amazing.
Be Present. Our land and plantings thrive when we’re out interacting with them. Make your garden, even the most practical parts of it, a place you want to spend time. Build in places to sit, play, or nap. If you’re sensitive to the sun, like me, consider adding shade. An inexpensive cattle panel trellis arch for vining plants with a little bench or set of chairs underneath it can be a wonderful place to sit. Consider adding a fire pit, hammock, or other feature that will draw you into the garden for recreation and relaxation. This reinforces the communication described above – it’s a lot easier to get a message when you’re actively out spending time with your land.
Plan for pleasure when you’re designing. It’s true that gardening is work, but it’s also beautiful, fun, interesting, and relaxing. If you build in places of beauty, reverence, rest, and recreation, your connection to your land will only grow.
Naps are awesome. Plan for naps.
Cultivate. Growing squash is a great way to put food on your own table. However, one of the most powerful ways to work with your land spirits is to feed them. On a practical level, this means feeding their bodies – the birds, insects, fungi, and microbiota that make up part of the physical ‘body’ of your land spirits. Consider planting food and shelter for the other denizens of your region. Begin to think of gardening as supporting the entire microregion. For each variety of vegetable you plant for your own table, add a plant that supports the life around you. Look into native species for your region. There’s a practical upshot for you as well – a garden buzzing with pollinators is a productive garden.
One of the most powerful paradigm shifts for me personally was realizing that my little vegetable garden could not only feed my family, but could be a force for improving everything around me from soil to species diversity. Gardening is a form of healing magick for the land itself – a matter of gardening for *everyone* as opposed to just the humans in the picture. It’s a big shift, but you can take it in small bites. Maybe this year you focus on the pollinators. Maybe next year you add in the soil. Maybe the year after that you add in more shelter. Before you know it, you’ll find that the land you live on has grown stronger, healthier, and more diverse.
Diversify. If you are growing more than one cantaloupe plant (and you should), grow different varieties of cantaloupe. This applies across the board for your food producing plants. Choose some early harvest varieties, some mid, and some late. This not only spreads your harvest out – it keeps your pollinators happy and makes your garden more resilient against the challenges gardeners face (soil health, insect predation, blight). I personally aim to have a minimum of two kinds of plants in flower from late March through October. The more diverse your garden, the more diverse the insect and bird population will be. The more diverse the Flying Ones on your property, the more they self-regulate.
The one caveat here involves cross pollination. If you’re growing multiple pepper varieties, don’t put your jalapenos right next to your ghost peppers.
Guess how I know that.
Start Small. One last tip because I hear from people who want to get started with gardening pretty regularly and are looking for how to do it. A large garden is more work than most folks realize. Start small. Choose a sunny area of your property and plant a few things you love to eat. Maybe 4 to 8 kinds of fruit or vegetables. Nurture and love those veggies this year and then see how you feel about expanding. It’s a lot easier to add on than to reduce a garden.
Are you planning your garden this year? What have you decided to do to boost the biodiversity where you live? Hit me up in the comments.
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