Warning: Gardening is addictive and will improve your health, spirit and mental well-being.Rachel Patterson, Kitchen Witchcraft: Garden Magic, pg. 3
This GIF pretty much sums up how I feel about gardening. It’s funny, two years ago I couldn’t keep a Hen and Chicks succulent alive, but last year I managed to grow a pretty little garden! This year I’m taking on more challenging plants, and even plan to transplant a rose bush! I know roses are fairly hardy plants, and as long as I time it right the bush should take root well, but I’m still proud of myself. Confidence is key to success in all endeavors! (That, and a little help from Good Neighbors.)
Before I purchased any supplies, I did my homework. Growing a garden is a science, just as it is an art. You need to know which plants get along, which plants like light, and which like shade, and you need to know if the plant will be happy in regular soil, or if you need sand or a fancier soil. I’m still a novice, as you can tell from my impressive vocabulary (fancy soil – face palm).
Connect to Earth on a deeper level…
Growing a garden is more than just planting and harvesting supplies for your herbal collection. It’s about connecting with the Earth on a deeper level…it’s about establishing a relationship with the spirits of Nature, the Fair Folk, and the Genius Loci, and it’s about using magick to create life. When I see a seed I planted turn into a cute little sprout, reaching for the sun out of the dark soil, I am overcome with pride, in the plant and myself. It’s akin to the pride I feel when my son does something new, so it wouldn’t be far off to say it’s a motherly love you feel for your plants. Those little plants have spirits of their own, and they respond to your love and affection.
I think it was a documentary, perhaps a video on Youtube or Facebook, but it revealed that plants suffer when they’re bullied. They had two plants – same plants, same soil, same age – everything was identical. They were kept in environment controlled boxes, to ensure that the only variable was what the plant was told. They had recorded people saying mean things, and saying nice things, and played the mean things to one plant and the nice to the other. The plant who heard the compliments grew strong and tall, while the abused plant was weak and sickly. If that isn’t proof that plants have feelings, I don’t know what is!
How do I start a magickal garden?
The first step in creating your magickal garden is the first step in any magickal activity: devise your intent. Do you want the garden to carry out an assortment of intentions, or do you want to stick to one theme? Do you want to grow a garden as an offering? Or, how about creating an elemental garden, with a separate garden or section for each element. For ideas, I have created a Pinterest board with all sorts of pins about gardening for witches.
Research and Record-Keeping
All of my garden plans are in my grimoire. Some people use spreadsheets, recording their planting time, when and how they are to be pruned, watering schedules, feeding schedules- everything needed to keep the garden tasks sorted. I will create a diagram of the garden, to scale, so I can plan where to plant each seedling.
I live in an apartment, so I only have a small space to work with. (I have had to put in a formal request to plant a small rose bush, and it is yet to be approved…) The flower and herb garden is going to be in the back yard, so as long as it doesn’t extend past my little porch and steps, it’s allowed by property management. That gives me a bit of land about five feet across and four feet deep. Not a lot in garden terms. This means I have to choose plants that do not need a lot of space around them, but growing outside means my plants can grow nice and tall. By planning wisely, I can manifest a magickal garden just as glorious as any other. You feel such pride when you carefully devise and plant a healthy garden, no matter the purpose. When it doesn’t do well it is heartbreaking. That is why research and record keeping is so important.
- what plants do well in your location;
- what plants get along and which need to be in their own container;
- how much light and water the plants require; if the plant needs special soil, or will need particular food. Do you need to mulch? Do you need sand?
- Will the plant attract bugs, and if so, what kinds? Butterflies and bees are great, but if you or a family member is allergic, then you may want to avoid a bee-attracting plant.
- To make sure your garden thrives, you will have to design it carefully. That means drawing out a scale sketch, and then sectioning off what will go where. If you can do this in your head and remember, that’s great! But, if not, you will have to draw it out. If you don’t want to keep that then use scrap paper.
- It helps to have one location to keep your design sketch, research notes, a chart of what can be planted when, and even record when you planted something, if it’s going to come back next year, how often it needs watering, when and how to prune, and proper harvesting methods.
One design I am considering is an elemental garden. I’ve done my homework, and kept extensive notes, so once I know what can go where, I can work in an elemental theme.
Soil is the body of the garden. It is the body, and water is the blood. When you lay down the garden, take a bit of soil in your hand. Bring it to your nose, and inhale deeply. There is nothing like the scent of fertile soil. Bring it apart, and watch it fall. There is a thing of beauty, as soil slips through your fingers. And don’t wear gloves when you do this! I know, your nails will be grubby and gross. But when you first lay out your garden, it’s important to connect to the soil.
Your Earth garden may be a garden on its own, or it may be a section of your garden as a whole. In addition to soil, you can bring the element of Earth into your garden with rocks, crystals, and statues of dwarves and fairies. Growing lush greens, like having a pot of mint, or a nearby bush, will work as well. Earth and Land, in any elemental system, is associated with the quality of strength and stability. What better to represent that than a tree? If you can’t plant a tree, then plant your garden near a tree. Hanging some chimes in the tree (incorporating air), will tie the tree to the garden.
Earth Spell: Garden protection
Using a pot or cauldron, mix a handful of soil from your garden, a healthy dose of pepper, and a few pinches of dried basil. (Use your intuition for exact amounts). Use a rusty nail to stir the mixture. Set the nail aside, and, using your hand, sprinkle the mixture around the perimeter of the garden saying:
Basil cleanse, Pepper sting, This garden is sealed with a protective ring.
Bury the nail at any corner of the garden. (Make sure it’s deep, and to be safe, put a stone or board over the spot. I know I love to garden barefoot, and would hate to step on the nail if it manages to climb up to the surface. This would be a good spot to put your garden altar!)James Kambos, “Spring Garden Magic”, Llewellyn’s 2013 Magical Almanac, pg. 15
Nothing says spring like a melodious song of birds in the morning. One of the most depressing things about winter is waking to silence – or worse, to the sound of a snow plow. While I’m grateful that snow removal is included with my apartment, it’s not a pleasant way to wake. The gentle breeze brings the unmistakeable scent of spring – the soil, the moss, the subtle smell of trees as they awaken from their icy slumber.
To incorporate air into your elemental garden, plant flowers with gentle yellow hues. Angelica, “Ruby Giant” echinacea and Russian Sage are all ‘air’ plants. Wind chimes are always a great way to invite the powers of air. My favorite way to extend offerings to the powers of air is to hang bird feeders. Whether it be a humble hummingbird feeder, or half a dozen large feeders and houses, Nature appreciates when you feed her feathered children.
Spring is a little cool for us Northerners to go camping, but it’s the perfect time for bonfires and fire pits. The spring showers keeps the grass moist, minimizing the chances for a wandering spark to cause a tragic disaster. If you are like me, and live in an apartment, then a fire pit or chimnea may not be possible. you could make do, with carefully placed candles and lights. Planting sunflowers will bring the element of Fire into your garden as well (or any flower with vibrant orange, red, or yellow hues). There is a neat DIY Mason-jar candle holder I found on Pinterest, which is in the board I created for Magick Gardens. Where I live, mosquitos can get quite thick by the height of summer, so citronella torches and candles give mood lighting and keep the pests away.
Water is the life blood of the garden. Something simple as a way to collect rain water for your plants can be efficient in incorporating the powers of water into your garden. A rain collection container doesn’t have to be an unsightly bucket either. Paint a watering can, or repurpose coffee cans, so as one overflows it will pour into another can just below. Rain water is much better for our gardens than tap, so if you don’t get a lot of rain, try to save what you can when it does.
A birdbath, or even a small pond are equally efficient, and much prettier to look at. While I can’t have a bird bath, much less a pond, I can have a small fountain. There is something about the gentle trickle of a fountain – it’s reminiscent of a gentle spring rain. I’ve included a few pins on how to make your own fountain. I’m not comfortable working with sheet metal, so I will hunt for clearance fountains to add to my garden.
Water is rejuvenating, and refreshing. Make a ritual out of watering your plants (or any other form of tending); take the time to talk to your plants and connect with their spirits. Each plant spirit has its own personality, its own vibration. Get to know each one. This especially comes in handy if one gets sick. If you are in tune with the plant’s spirit, you can ask it what is wrong. You would be surprised how well this works.
Connect to your Plants
As I said, take the opportunity to get to know each plant in your garden when you can. Even if it’s just a few minutes when you’re watering them. Not only does this prove helpful when a plant gets sick, but it helps when it comes time to deadhead, prune or harvest. It’s not respectful to go around cutting someone’s hair, so it’s equally rude to just start snipping away before asking the plant for permission. Last year some of my flowers grew as tall as 6 feet, and the flowers would get so heavy the poor stalk would be leaning from the weight. I would water the garden, and talk to all of my plants. Then I would get shears, ones I used only for my garden, and before I snipped anything I would talk with the plant. I would ask if I could cut it here or there, and would tell it why. “Your bloom will soon die, may I cut it here to relieve your back from leaning and make a bouquet in my home?” or, “this part of your plant has become sick, may I remove it so you can thrive?” Same goes for deadheading, when you pull dead blossoms off so the flower can replace it with a new one. “I’m sorry I have to hurt you, but it’s so you can keep growing strong”. And after I’m done, I take a moment to feel gratitude for my plants, and for their sacrifice. Even if it’s just a damaged leaf, it’s part of their body. The garden is much healthier when it knows it’s loved.
You may use your garden to grow herbs and flowers for magickal workings, or the act of growing the garden itself could be magick. While I have included some pins about what a Witch’s Garden includes on the Pinterest board, don’t feel compelled to include any of the suggestions. With witchcraft, you want to make it your own. That means listening to your body, your intuition, and trusting that the messages you receive from nature are real. Yes, my garden will have some herbs. But that’s because I was drawn to them, NOT because some ‘expert’ wrote that I have to have them in order for my garden to be ‘witchy’. As witches, we are naturally drawn to the outdoors. We are nurturers, mothers, caregivers, healers, and have honed our abilities to walk between the worlds. All of these qualities are exercised in gardening – whether it’s a rock garden, a pond, a succulent or zen garden, flower garden, vegetable garden – I could go on and on.
I think that altars make the magick garden complete, but again, go with your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable having an altar outside, then don’t have one! Like I said before, I need a little help when it comes to gardening, so I adorn my garden with things that Good Neighbors like. I will have an altar in my garden this year, whereas last year my ‘witchy’ stuff was at a bare minimum. The altar will be for Earth gods, ancestors, dragons and Fae, so I’ll have all sorts of odds and ends out there so there is something for everyone. But that’s me.
When one hears magick, it’s natural to think spells. There are countless spells that use the growth of a plant to bring prosperity, or the soil of the bed to bring protection, luck, health, happiness. I included only two spells, but I found dozens more in researching this post. (Most of the content I knew, but still like to do research to see if there’s anything I can add to the piece). Growing an elemental garden connects you not only to nature but to the elements as well, which makes spells utilizing the elements all the stronger. You could design your garden in a way that it works with the planets, or deities. There is no limit to the possibilities. James Kambos, in his article “Spring Garden Magic”, said “The spring garden should be a place to celebrate magic.” (p. 19, Llewellyn’s 2013 Magical Almanac). I couldn’t agree more, Kambos! The very act of growing and nurturing a garden is magick.
Rachel Patterson, Kitchen Witchcraft: Garden Magic
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