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Making Room for the Wild in Your Garden

april 14. 2023

Something magical happened in my garden this week. Something that other gardeners may groan at because of the impact it may have in their garden. I discovered a nest of baby bunnies tucked underneath my mullein plant in my garden bed. Six sweet baby bunnies looking back at me, seeing a human for the very first time. 

Wild in your garden

This isn’t my first time seeing baby bunnies. Every year, I find a nest somewhere in my backyard – though this is the first time I have found one in my garden bed. Bunnies, while adorable, have the potential to wreak havoc on a garden. Recently sprouted seedlings can be nibbled to the ground, sending you right back to the beginning of your garden planning. 

Despite that fact, rabbits are an important part of our ecosystem – and even provide benefits to our gardens. They help keep weeds in check, improve our soil health from their underground burrows, and serve as an important food source to many predators including hawks, owls, coyotes and foxes. If rabbits were to disappear, it would have a huge detrimental impact to our ecosystem.

It can be difficult to shift our perspective of a situation that brings us concern. However, if there is one thing I have learned in my gardening journey – and in life – it is that wild elements are inevitable. And there are two ways we can approach them – accept them or resist them. And only one of those paths lead to suffering.

A gardener who seeks to control nature will always fail 

There are far too many factors  in nature that are out of our control – the temperature, the sun, precipitation, wildlife, fungi, bacteria – just to name a few. We can do our best to cultivate a welcoming environment with row covers to retain heat and protect from wildlife, irrigation to provide water, and organic matter to increase soil health. However, ultimately, the elements are wild – and so they should remain. The art in gardening is being able to flow with the wild; to recognize an issue when it arises, and seek a remedy that does the least amount of harm to all.

The point of gardening is not to figure out how to outsmart nature…

… but to work in alignment with her. If we are constantly manipulating nature to fit our standard of beauty and perfection, we miss out on what she can show us. If there is a shady part of your yard where you want a garden bed, you could cut down the tree to let in the sun. Or you could take this as an opportunity to learn about the many beautiful plants that grow well in a shade garden. Sometimes obstacles lead us towards new experiences we never knew possible.

The wild element is where the magic lies

There are many elements that contribute to the flow in our gardens and our lives – but the wild element is where the magic lies. Every year, I find remnants of last year’s garden popping up in the most unexpected places. Oregano from my garden bed that self-sowed in my lawn. A tomato plant that rooted from a missed harvest. St. John’s Wort that lines the edges of my garden beds. If I am honest, it is these random elements in my wild garden that bring me the most joy. Against all odds, these plants did exactly as they were designed to do, with no direction or help from me. 

It makes me think about moments in my life that have taken place without my control. Whether those are moments of joy, when an opportunity that presents itself that feels completely in alignment with my path. Or moments of disappointment, when something I worked hard towards suddenly falls through. Looking back, I can understand the reason for every twist and turn, and how they led me to where I am today. And I also can see when I tried to control a situation too much, and how the wild element forced its way through to redirect me. Whether we make room for it or not, it will appear. 

So dear friend, during this spring season, as you face your plans, your expectations, your own definition of perfection, I urge you to leave some room for the wild in your garden. Nature has lessons to teach us every season. They can be beautiful or heartbreaking – sometimes both. But I promise you, its worth it.

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