Raking the Garden

I enjoy raking my garden as it changes through the seasons. In early spring, I turn the soil and then rake the dark brown dirt until it is flat, even, and smooth. Nothing is planted. Nothing is growing. No weeds. It looks like a kind of perfection.

It reminds me a bit of a Zen garden. You will find them with stones, gravel, maybe sand. They are not gardens planted with flowers or vegetables – which is what my garden will be. Zen gardens have been used for about 800 years. The care of the garden old, and at the center of its care and upkeep is a quiet, mind, especially raking, is meant to be a practice that is mindful, like meditation.

You might think that a Zen garden would be very precisely designed, but that kind of straight lines and symmetry is really a Western concept. Japanese Zen gardens are less symmetrical. There is often a centerpiece. It could be a rock garden and the raking is done so that the pattern mimics water. They are usually small. You can even find desktop gardens and meant for individual contemplation. I know that sounds like it couldn’t give many benefits but I have a small one indoors and it is a good mindfulness practice to care for it.

My outside dirt and plants garden that was Zen-like in early spring gets greener and greener and my raking meditation becomes weeding meditation. Summer turns me to admiring the colors of blooms, harvesting vegetables, picking bouquets, caring for plants suffering from the heat, insects, disease, too much rain, or not enough water.

In peak summer, the plants have their own kind of symmetry. The zucchini, squashes, melons, and pumpkins look chaotic but I look for patterns.

In the last days of summer and into autumn, the plants start fading and dying. The time comes to clear out the plants and then to rake the garden back into its clean, brown simplicity.

Gardening doesn’t have to be a Zen experience or mindful to be calming and beneficial, but I would recommend taking some aspects of the Zen garden into your gardening.