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The Gardening Bug: Simple Ways to Enjoy Gardening

April 25, 2016 | 4 Comments

by Kathy Austin, CVA

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Tiger Swallowtail butterfly resting on a potted plant


We’ve had an early spring here in Chicago. I’ve been out in the garden a lot cleaning up last year’s plant remains and broken tree branches, transplanting lilies and hostas, and planning what I’ll be purchasing to infuse my beds with flowers this summer.

I love to garden — it is my respite, my relaxation and my sanity. Gardening brings me peace. Even though I can no longer see the plants, I still have a vision in my mind of what it all looks like. I can tell if a plant is thriving by feeling if its leaves are firm and healthy. I hear the robins maneuvering through the underbrush to get to the earthworms in a pile of soil I removed when planting new shrubs. I enjoy the fragrance of daffodils when exploring the ground for little sprouts of plants waiting to burst through and open themselves to the new season. My anticipation of how the garden will be this year is all I’ve been thinking about.

Tending a garden is harder now with no real useful vision. Sometimes I think I have too much, and I get overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. But knowing that gardens are always a work in progress, always changing, I continue on just because it makes me feel good.

I know not everyone has the land, ability or desire to manage a property full of garden beds, but here are a couple of ideas that may bring the joy of gardening into your life.

Little Spaces, Little Gardens

With one container and some potting mix, you can create an herb garden. Mix a parsley plant, with basil, oregano and thyme all in one pot, water thoroughly and put it in a spot that gets at least six hours of sun. You’ll have all you need for a pesto or spaghetti sauce. Bonnie Plants has some great combination ideas. A basket of planted herbs makes a great gift too!

Create a Butterfly Bath

Even though I can’t see the butterflies, friends and family notice them when they are in my garden and will describe their antics. This enriches my gardening experience because I know I am providing them a refreshing bath and a cool drink and creating something beautiful for others to watch

A butterfly bath is an easy DIY project that’s inexpensive using terracotta pots and saucers, small rocks and pebbles and a parsley plant. Go one step further and surround your butterfly bath with containers of butterfly attracting annuals such as petunias, cosmos, sweet alyssum or verbena — all readily available at home centers and nurseries this time of year.

Give the Gift of a Garden

Share the beauty of early spring annuals like pansies with friends and neighbors. Recently, I purchased a couple of small terracotta pots and saucers and a package of yellow and purple pansies. I potted them up, tied a ribbon around the pot and gave them as a hostess gift. Another one went to my great niece to take home with her after a visit to my house. This inexpensive and small token of appreciation brought a smile to all who received the pot.

Learning is Fun

Another way I enjoy gardening is through social media. I love the Extension Master Gardener and the National Garden Bureau’s Facebook pages. Especially now, as gardening season gets under way, both organizations share lots of good ideas, great information and interesting facts. There are literally hundreds of other gardening pages on Facebook to choose from, too!

The BARD website from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has a handful of gardening books, some reference and others that tell stories. Search the BARD website under “gardening” in the subject section. My favorite reference books include:

  • The Nonstop Garden by Jennifer Benner and Stephanie Cohen
  • The New Low Maintenance Garden by Valarie Easton
  • The Well Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy DiSabato
  • Horticulture Magazine


No Dirty Hands, No Aching Back

I’m also in the process of reading A Patchwork Garden by Sidney Edison. It is a lovely story of how her country garden in Newtown, Connecticut has evolved over three decades. She intertwines her knowledge, successes and failures with the fellow gardeners who inspired and taught her along the way. I live vicariously through this book – it would be my dream to have this kind of a garden.  But I will try to be content with my 60 x 120 suburban plot and keep on trying to make it something all will enjoy – butterflies, bees, birds and people, too!

Happy spring!

Kathy is the Community Engagement Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator at Second Sense.

4 comments on “The Gardening Bug: Simple Ways to Enjoy Gardening”

  1. Stella De Genova says:

    Great article, Kathy! I like this blog a lot.

  2. Taylor says:

    Haha! I didn’t see any butterflies for the longest time in my gardening, but my kids always did. I planted milkweed in two different spots, because I was determined to see them. The milkweed attracted all types of butterflies and bees too.

  3. Nishat says:

    Gardeners also tend to share the produce they grow, thus improving the vegetable intake of their friends and family and keeping them connected to their social network.

  4. I really enjoyed your refreshing take on gardening. it really is a work in progress that you can reinvent year after year.

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