Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It was a quiet, mild morning, and frost was imminent. As more and more plants die and are taken out, large empty spaces open up in the beds; as if the garden is yawning in anticipation of its winter slumber. I spent those quiet, contemplative hours “making dirt,” as I call it.

Gone now are the cheerful pink vinca under the cherry tree. The pansies for winter will replace them in the bed inside the short rock wall. Unfortunately, this bed seems to have the soil level sink lower and lower month by month, until the tree roots are beginning to show above the surface.

This year, I’ll need to add another four inches to that bed over all of it, or risk root damage while I plant the winter annuals. Dirt must have seeped out between the loose stones with each rain.

The stuff the stores sell as garden soil is quite inadequate to be used as such, but it was on sale for a fraction of the price of good compost.

Here is the recipe for my low-budget soil in the mass quantities that I’ll need; One bag of the soil from the garden center, an equal part of my own compost, and a whole bunch of whatever was left in the pots of plants that died over the summer. Add 1 cup of organic fertilizer, a shovelful of that unusable clay subsoil that was dug out for the new pavement, and voila! Cheap dirt, dirt cheap.

It makes me cringe to see people throwing away old plants complete with dirt. Sure, a lot of them are root bound and it might take a little while for the organic material to break down. Put it into a compost pile, and it turns into rich soil!

A good gardener has to be careful, however, in what she recycles. Johnson grass and Bermuda grass never make it into my compost, but are thrown in the trash or burned. They are so invasive that they would live through the composting process and wreak havoc all through the garden if they were recycled in this way.

Vegetable waste from the kitchen is reused as plant food directly under the mulch, but not everything goes in it. Commercially grown garlic and potatoes can harbor diseases that have to be controlled with strong chemicals, which I don’t want to introduce in my vegetable beds.

Similarly, we don’t want to reuse or recycle dangerous habits and customs in the religious sense.

Re-use of spiritual concepts and practices outlined in the Scriptures are always beneficial. Just as it takes time for microbes to break down the nutrients in good compost, it takes time and effort for us to take a scripture and “break it down” by studying, comparing it to other scriptures, and getting together with other Christians to make it seep into the very fiber of our souls. It allows the words given to us by our Creator to become nourishing to our souls. It goes beyond just rote memorization, and allows those precious words to make a change in us.

Denominational customs such as repetitive prayers or good luck charms take us away from the pure teachings found in the Bible, and can poison and infect our souls like a potato virus poisons the soil. Other customs such as celebrations of holidays may be more benign, but shouldn’t we look into what we are doing before just simply following a tradition?

While we continue to nourish our souls, let us be careful what we recycle.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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