Organic gardening as a work of heart
Sister Ma Lani Saligumba ACI
Home gardening has become a popular initiative among households in the Philippines affected by lockdowns due to the pandemic. It is particularly interesting because Filipinos who had little or no interest in home gardening are growing herbs and leafy greens in their balconies and backyards. This is a wonderful trend that responds to local concerns on food security and opens up opportunities to transform the food system.
In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on everyone to renew their commitment to the advocacy of protecting the environment, and this includes ecological actions such as home gardening. This is illustrated in the opening paragraph where Saint Francis of Assisi’s beautiful canticle is quoted: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.”
We, the ACI Sisters are also called to be on the move to care for Mother Earth as it is uniquely tied to our charism of Reparation. As a response, we transformed parts of our vacant land into productive spaces of nutritious vegetables and herbs. We helped each other in preparing the soil and planting vegetables and flowers. We pay close attention to our garden by removing the weeds and dead leaves and watering the garden regularly.
We also produced our own organic fertilizer that used beneficial microorganisms and foliar juice that provided nutrients to enrich the soil. And through the Bokashi composting method that uses chopped kitchen waste, our garden soil is enriched and gives us healthy produce.
It is hard work but we are rewarded with fresh vegetables and herbs. We happily deliver to our kitchen armfuls of fresh lettuce, pechay (bok choy), okra, mustard leaves, kangkong (water spinach), and other vegetables. Every time I prepare a meal with my own homegrown vegetables, I feel an amazing sense of achievement and inspiration.I love gardening because by cultivating the earth, we are united with millions of people who work under the hot sun to earn a living and sustain their families.
In the youth formation I handle, I ensure that gardening is part of their outdoor activities. I believe young people have great ideas and energy to contribute, given the opportunity, the right tools, and encouragement. We work together in cleaning the surroundings, removing the weeds, preparing the pots, planting the seeds, and other gardening activities. The youth also produced artwork from recycled materials like plastic bottles and cans.
Some of the parents joined us in planting and harvesting and also helped prepare and produce organic fertilizers, while a benefactor helped us secure a stable water source for our vegetable gardens.
It is truly a labor of love with positive social interaction and sharing from the gardening to the harvesting, and from the preparation and cooking to sharing the food on the table.
What started simply as vegetable plots transformed into a beautiful garden that welcomed people to visit the place and appreciate the beauty of nature. The success of our garden is not measured by how many seedlings are planted, but by how much we love each one and all the lives that cross our path.
I like to think that God was the first organic gardener who gave me the opportunity to dig my hands into the soil. It connects me to HIM, who created all things and gives me the ability to care for and nurture the plants.
Being a gardener helps me to reflect more deeply on spiritual life. As I plant seeds, I realize that it is God who first planted those seeds in me. As I water and weed the garden, I realize that others have done the same for me especially my family, the ACI (Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) Sisters, friends, and people in the apostolate who nourish my life and help me to focus on the growth and not get distracted by the “weeds.”
I could truly say that a beautiful organic garden is a work of heart.