Monday, January 30, 2012

The Parable of Companion Planting

 Jesus often uses agricultural terms to aid in his teaching about spiritual matters.  As long as there is life on earth we will be dependent on farming, and the parables involving planting, growing and harvest will offer insight into the nature of the kingdom of God.  The analogies may be easily lost on those not paying attention--those, for example, who think the grocery store is where food originates.  As my seven year old asked last year, "Just how do the cows make cheeseburgers?"  But to those who understand that everything we have can be traced back to the raw materials God gave us to use in the first place, there is much to be learned from this type of teaching.

  The Bible doesn't exhaust the use of agricultural language to explain the spirit world.  In fact, it seems likely that God expects Jesus' parables to whet our appetites for more.  I started square foot gardening last year and have discovered that, even in a small, urban back yard a person can learn a lot about God.  I've been educating myself about companion planting.  If you've never heard of it, it's the idea that certain crops planted in proximity either assist or discourage each other in productivity.  For example, beets and pole beans planted side by side will stunt each other's growth, and cabbage and lettuce, as alike as they seem, are not good for each other as the flavor of lettuce will be greatly compromised.  On the other hand, many plants are great company for each other.  A native American technique known as The Three Sisters combines corn, squash and beans.  As they grow, the bean plant climbs the corn stalk, using it as a sort of stake, and the squash leaves spread out at the base, serving as mulch.  The three essentially work together to produce a more bountiful harvest.

  With as many plants as there are, this can all become quite confusing, so I have drawn up a grid of every square foot in my garden.  On it I have assigned a place to each plant.  With most of them, it's as simple as determining which ones get along well and which ones don't.  Then there are plants like the marigold which has the potential to serve many purposes.  It's beautiful, edible, and a formidable opponent for many garden pests.  For that reason, I have marigolds planted everywhere.

  Now, whether you're intrigued by all of this or you're not really into gardening, you must admit there's much to be learned from God's chosen method for feeding mankind.  Companion planting has helped me understand that God has a big picture for his garden and a purpose for each one of us.  It also helps make sense of why some of us work well together and some of us don't.  Have you ever worked alongside a person who brought out the worst in you?  It's not necessarily an indictment on any individual but a clue to the mystery that is the body of Christ and the fact that we each possess unique abilities and gifts.  God knows best how to combine those.

  Some plants he seems to stick in the ground to remain and produce fruit until the day they die.  You know, the folks who have lived in the same house their entire lives?  Others, like the marigold, he continues to transplant to serve different purposes at different times.  I have often felt like a marigold, wanting a single defined purpose in a single defined square foot of the garden, but I find myself instead being used sometimes as pest control and sometimes as food.  If you've ever been chewed up and spit out by ministry, you know what I mean.  God in his infinite wisdom has chosen to pull my family up by the roots time and time again to transplant us about, knowing that in the end, we will have served our purpose as laid out in his perfect plan.

1 comment:

  1. I love this. I seriously want a picture of your beautiful garden as a reminder that we need to strive to grow spiritually.