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Learning Life Lessons from the Unexpected Garden - Amy Pawlusiak

Life Lessons Learned from the Unexpected Garden


When Amy Pawlusiak reluctantly agreed to allow a vegetable garden in the backyard, she never imagined the wealth of benefits that is would bring her family.

My middle school son loves to garden, but I have to admit I don’t. While he loves to play in the dirt, see things grow, and care for green things, my desire is to sit back and just relax. My dad also loves to garden. So this duo decides to make a garden this spring in my backyard. (Did I mention I hate gardens?)

Because I’m an understanding mom, and because I love my son and my father, and because I see the obvious goodness and learning opportunities involved in taking care of a garden, I let them dig out my beautiful grass and replace it with dirt.

They hedge it in with some garden edging, and buy tomato, cucumber, strawberry, jalapeno, and green pepper plants. My son then pulls me out to the garden to see the carefully placed young plants, and he tells me about all the wonderful things I will be cooking once they grow.

I am skeptical. I know gardens take work, and I am worried about them both being disappointed. I’m also worried about who will take care of this garden when my son forgets to water it, take care of it, etc. “I’m not looking for something else to do!” I complain to myself.

It’s Growing on Me:

After a few weeks, it’s obvious that all the fishy fertilizer (smelly stuff!), watering, and care my son and Dad have lavished on the garden are taking effect (my son surprisingly actually waters it every day!). They see cucumber vines growing up the trellis, and the tomato flowers are now turning into little tomatoes.

Our other four children enjoy helping to water it, and we all like to go see “what the garden is doing” today. I don’t like gardens, but I find out that I like to see things grow. I also like seeing my son happy and engaged in something outdoors that doesn’t include a video screen. We also realize that God is good. He makes us food! Maybe gardens aren’t SO bad.

Attack of the Killer Worms!

One day we go out to the garden and see holes in many of our hard-earned tomatoes. What is going on? Worms, seemingly over night, have attacked! Quickly, my dad goes out and buys some type of spray to kill them, but many tomatoes are lost. We learn a valuable lesson.

We must take care of the garden and be ever vigilant that what we work so hard for doesn’t end up getting eaten and rotten. We have to be more proactive. Thus, we decide to spray the tomatoes once a week or so and to be more careful in the future. I again hope that the garden doesn’t disappoint my son. I hate gardens.

The Cucumbers Teach a Lesson:

After several weeks, we realize that the baby cucumbers we see on the trellis aren’t growing. We don’t know why, so we look it up, and find something truly interesting. Who knew! There are “female” cucumber flowers and “male” cucumber flowers. The male flower pollen needs to somehow get to the female flowers.

Females are the ones with a flower with a tiny cucumber attached. Males don’t have the tiny cucumbers. We need bees, apparently, to do the job. But, since we don’t have any, or not enough seem to be in our yard, we learn that a small paintbrush and some patience can move the right pollen to the right flowers.

My son and I learn that God makes even the plants work together to make their fruit! Within a couple of weeks, we see the baby cucumbers growing. An obvious life lesson has been taught, and all I did was help make cucumbers grow with a paintbrush. Hmm… Gardens aren’t SO bad.

The Fruits of Our Labor:

At some point, the garden reaches gargantuan proportions. I’m suddenly inundated with mounds of tomatoes, big and grape size. The bell peppers make delicious chili, and the jalapenos help make some yummy summer salsa. Our friends stop by and want to see the garden too.

Some even take pictures and pick some of the juicy tomatoes to take home (we can’t possibly eat them all!). My son beams with pride! His garden has gotten big, and we are now tastings its fruits. I can’t believe that the garden actually grew good food and that we are enjoying it. So many lessons have come from this garden.

We realize how much work it takes to actually grow food (unlike just buying it from the store). We learn that just as in life, we need to watch the garden for pests and take precautions that nothing “worms” its way in. Most of all, we realize that gardens are beautiful! We learn that sharing from the garden makes us happy.

We also learn that God’s plan for feeding us is good and that He takes care of all our needs. I still don’t love gardens, but at least I don’t hate them anymore.

God is very good… and so is the unexpected garden that has taught our family these wonderful life lessons.

Header photo CC Monkey Business | adobestock.com

About Amy Pawlusiak

Amy Pawlusiak
Originally from suburban Detroit, Michigan, Amy Pawlusiak now lives in Tampa, Florida raising and homeschooling her very active five children, from high school to preschool. She has a masters in Education from Wayne State University in Detroit, and worked for Catholic talk-show host and writer Teresa Tomeo on her website and newsletter before deciding to devote herself to homeschooling.

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