Life Lessons from My Summer Garden

You can glean life lessons from nearly any experience. Here's what I learned about productivity and more from tending a summer garden.


Many of the parables in the Gospels reference agriculture. Jesus conveys spiritual truths using language and analogies familiar to his audience. He speaks about laborers in the vineyard or seed sown on various types of soil.

Until fairly recently, I had just a basic understanding of gardening and how my gardening knowledge and experiences could influence my understanding of God’s direction for me. This year, I planted my second summer garden. Unlike my first relatively weed-free experience, my garden has been plagued with weeds. Though I have harvested many vegetables, they were not as fully developed and plentiful as they could have been had I weeded more diligently.

Roughly during the same time, I worked on a new project. Similarly, the project yielded results. But there were distractions that reduced my effectiveness. Reflecting on the past few months, here are life lessons from my summer garden:

Weeds may mimic a healthy plant but a trained and informed eye can detect them

One of my worst problems this summer was a destructive weed disguised as a healthy, productive vegetable. In the midst of my plot of tomatoes were some fast-growing vines that my husband said looked like green beans. I didn’t recall planting them in the same area as my tomatoes but I supposed it was possible that some seeds had traveled from one part of the soil to another. My records didn’t indicate beans but perhaps my notes weren’t flawless, I reasoned.

So, I allowed these mysterious but seemingly healthy plants to linger. They grew up the stakes I had installed for my tomatoes. I waited for blossoms to appear, and then signs of growing vegetables. Instead, the weeds took more and more space. I set a time frame for seeing the plant’s yield and when that time came and went without hoped-for results, I began to remove the weeds.

At the same time, I suspected a weed in my project. Others had a much different perspective, like my husband who presumed the vines were healthy and productive plants, not destructive ones. So, I was slow to act as I doubted largely because of contrary opinions.

What I learned is that weeds can often be disguised, so a trained eye is needed to recognize them. Though I am open to surprises that can come from God’s creative work in the world, I realized that certain distractions need to be controlled or eliminated, particularly if they detract from well-thought-out plans.

A garden can yield vegetables (or fruit) even if there are weeds

Despite the preponderance of weeds, my garden still produced tomatoes and zucchini. However, my tomatoes in particular were much smaller than expected. And my eggplants grew slightly but then shriveled. I suspect that my allowing the weeds to get out of control prevented my garden from reaching its potential.

Similarly, my project did have some positive outcomes. However, the results could have been greater if there had been no counterproductive distractions or if I had taken firmer action earlier to correct my course.

Weeds use nutrients and other resources that could be channeled to other areas.

I really didn’t mind the weeds so much except that they robbed the soil of nutrients and blocked sunlight that should have benefited my vegetables. Plus, I had to spend time pulling them out of the ground, rather than harvesting my crop or planting more seeds.

My project took a lot more effort than necessary because I had to deal with problems as they repeatedly surfaced. Plus, I could have gotten more accomplished in other areas if I didn’t have to take the time and make the effort to handle these issues.

I have learned that the quicker I deal with weeds, especially persistent ones, the less impact they’ll have on my results.

The conditions that allow a garden to grow are the same ones that nurture weeds

Weeds grow and grow with little input from a gardener. Similarly, fruit or vegetable seeds can sometimes be tossed on the ground and yield significant portions of fruits or vegetables.

But, generally, creating a thriving garden is a lot of work. Enriching the soil, locating a spot with lots of sun, selecting and sowing seeds, etc. takes time, knowledge, and effort. That may not be obvious to the casual observer but is known to the gardener. And, oddly, the work done to prepare the garden may also allow weeds to grow (though they typically don’t need much to thrive).

Similarly, many people see fast growth as the harvest arrives and think that results are easily accomplished. But they may not see how preparations in the past laid the groundwork for future success. The care that is involved in taking a project from an idea to reality is significant, and often teaches the nurturer lessons about patience and timing not noticed by those on the periphery.

Now that the summer growing season (and my inaugural project) is nearly over, I realize that I have learned a lot from the weeds in my garden. While I could have doused the garden with weed killer, I probably would have destroyed my vegetables at the same time. Similarly, I could have halted the project but then wouldn’t have gotten the positive results.

And, as summer progressed, ripping out the extraneous may have involved compromising the garden or the project itself. I didn’t want to do that and, despite the extra work later, I believe I made the right decision. Next year, though, armed with experience and insight, I am going to deal with the weeds straightaway.

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