Dec. 16, 2016 | Donna Balzer
Gifts from your gardenHow eco-therapy can warm the soul during the holidays
Whether you believe in gift giving or not this is the time of year to be thankful for your garden and for nature. And the physical benefits gained aren't limited to things we have to buy.
Here is a seasonal selection of garden gifts to ponder:
Chelsie was at the landfill in late November when she noticed someone else had left large birch branches behind. Knowing these could be striking additions to her seasonal garden containers, she swapped out her waste for someone else's, and happily left with a few striking white branches. Later, she included them in her seasonal outdoor pots and planters.
Stuffing greens in a pot, vase or on your fireplace mantle brings the benefits of natural aromatherapy into your home. Evergreen branches will stay green for about two weeks in a warm house without water. They will last longer if they are cut fresh and kept in water with a few drops of bleach.
If you keep greens outdoors – for example, in a pot on your balcony – they will easily hold their green vibrancy until March. Including berries from your mountain ash tree, crabapple or sea buckthorn shrub will turn your backyard bouquet into a banquet for the birds.
Seeds started indoors are ready to eat as sprouts in a few days or as micro-greens in a week. Sprouts can be grown on a kitchen counter, but micro-greens need grow lights or a cool spring greenhouse. If you plan to grow seedlings into summer plants, start them about mid-March.
A natural spring gift is a vase of tree buds blooming indoors on your table. By March, it might be too early for outdoor colour, but a branch of apple, pear, mayday or lilac could serve as a reminder of sunny days ahead. In late spring, early shoots of asparagus sprout in inner city parks and river edges, while Morels are found wild in forests where burns brought devastation last season.
When I saw dandelion leaves for sale in a Toronto grocery store, I smiled. I have enough dandelions naturally without having to plant them or buy them.
Most of us fuss over weeds, but purslane and dandelion are now recognized for their edible healthy nutrient-packed qualities. Yes, gardeners can grow a wealth of tasty foods for eating all summer, but the value of foraged edibles is a gift from nature's garden.
"If you pick it you can eat it." That was the advice from my four-year-old grandson Nathaniel as he looked right at me and popped a tomato into his mouth.
Yes, there are many foraged foods, but a wise gardener chooses what he wants to grow and deliberately seeds it or lets it reseed itself so there is a ready supply of by early fall.
After serving roasted potatoes to my sister this fall, she asked if I had added sugar to them. They were sweet compared to the climate-controlled store-bought spuds she buys, so she thought I had doctored them.
Yes, in a way I had done some doctoring. I planted them outdoors and – in our cool climate, especially in later fall when the last of the crop was harvested – the carbohydrates turned to sugars and potatoes tasted candy-cane good. Cool fall evenings and home grown potatoes are something money can't buy.
Eco-therapy is a gift we get every time we work in our garden or walk in the wild. What other gifts will your garden give you this year that money can't buy? Go and find out.
Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.gardenguru.net or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.
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