April is all about the changing seasons as spring really begins in earnest. With the coming of spring, the icy blast is past, and I am hopeful of life again: the sound of birds singing, drops of dew, fluffy white clouds, the rainbow’s reassuring promise of sunshine and perfect blue skies, the flowering trees, the green blades of grass all give evidence that life is rising from its wintery grave.
I love April because it is the month of new beginnings. The word itself comes from the Latin verb "Aperire" which means "to open." Like the flowers and trees, and even our souls, it's a time to start afresh and shed those cool weather layers.
With the month comes a wide array of holidays and observances to make every day a reason to celebrate (with the possible exception of Tax Day 😖). From social awareness to ecology, from funny, quirky things to the more serious, every day of the month is devoted to enjoying the gift of life.
Of special importance to Christians is Easter weekend that focuses attention on the life, and particularly the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which allows believers to move from death to life. This holiday is a “moveable holiday” being observed the weekend after the first full moon following the spring (vernal) equinox, and occurs from mid-March to mid-April. It falls within the “first month” of the ancient Jewish religious calendar, the month in which YHWH delivered Abraham’s descendants from the bondage of slavery in Egypt memorializing the event with the feast of Passover, itself foreshadowing the antitypical Passover, the “Lamb of God,” being sacrificed for our deliverance from sin.
Vernon and I have been very busy working in the high tunnel (greenhouse) and in the outside garden making new garden beds, cleaning and preparing the old beds for planting. We have been making real important decisions on what vegetables to put in each garden bed. This takes much thought.
As I think of the hard work it takes to start a garden I think of those first-timers who think they can just put a seed in the ground and have it will grow without much effort. That is exactly what we thought nearly seven years ago. We laugh at ourselves as we think back on our 7 year journey, thus far, and realize how naïve we were. Once we plant a seed, we have to give it water, fertilizer, and sun to help it grow. And so it is with us in our Christian life: once the seed of life has been planted in our cultivated hearts (by the preparing and implanting of the Word by the Spirit of God), it must be watered and fed by the same Spirit, and warmed and drawn upward by the Sun of Righteousness. This is a constant, daily thing that must not be neglected if we are to grow and mature in Christ to produce fruit unto salvation.
We’ve been toiling at our family homestead garden, growing by trial and error ever since the Lord brought us to this property. We’d like to share seven things we’ve learned that may help you to have better initial success than we did.
1) Pick the spot in your yard that gets the most sun. Almost all vegetables and many types of flowering plants need 6-8 hours of full sun each day. So you need to observe your yard throughout the day to figure out which spots receive full sun versus partial or full shade.
2) Plan Your Garden’s Layout. Narrow beds are usually best. Make them no more than about 4 feet wide, whether raised beds or directly in the ground. This helps to make maintenance easier to manage. Make paths between the beds wide enough to easily tend the beds.
3) Fill your raised bed with rich soil. Loosening the soil in new beds before sowing or planting helps roots to grow more easily and access the water and nutrients they need. There are two methods: tilling with a mechanical device such as a rototiller or digging by hand. The first one is a good method when you need to mix in large amounts of amendments.
4) Get yourself some seeds or seedlings. Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? If you choose vegetables and herbs for their contributions to your dinner table, plant ones your family will eat or be willing to try.
5) Water, but don’t over water or under water. Seedlings should never be allowed to dry out, so water daily. Taper off as the plants get larger. Transplants also need frequent watering (every other day or so) until their roots become established. After that, how often you need to water depends on your soil, humidity, and rainfall, though once a week is a good place to start.
6) Mulch your garden bed. To help keep weeds out and moisture in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. You won't have to water as often, and by preventing sunlight from hitting the soil, you'll prevent weed seeds from germinating. Just make sure not to mulch over seeds you want to grow or they may not germinate either.
7) Grow an organic garden. You’ll be happy, the plants will be happy, the ecosystem will be happy.
This information is just the beginning. Each plant has its own specifications: how much sun and water it needs, what kind of spacing it need, does it need a stake or support system. You’ll need to learn when to harvest, how to combat pests, what to do with the garden bed at the end of the season. But, don’t let these topics overwhelm you. If you follow the steps above, you’re first garden will surely deliver some fresh, tasty produce for you to enjoy this summer.
“As in the natural, so in the spiritual…” – Christ’s Object Lessons, p.364
I pray this month has brought you the peace and serenity you need, and the growth in Christ you have sought.