Ancient wisdom, mindfulness and gardening

image family gardening

Gardening is one of the greatest joys in my life. In the last few days, we have spent most of our days in the garden, planting, sowing and getting our garden furniture and barbecue out. Most of all we have been enjoying the sunshine on our faces, hands in the soil and connecting to source. 

These first couple of weeks in May are wonderful, yet it’s also a time when I get a little impatient as I need to stop myself from planting some of the tender seedlings outdoors. In Germany, we have a lot of ancient traditions based on something we call “farmer’s wisdom”. Most of these sayings, rhymes and traditions are hundreds of years old, yet many avid gardeners and farmers still stick to them to this day. Here are some examples loosely translated from German, they might sound a bit “bumpy” as the rhyming doesn’t translate very well:

The frostier a January, the better the year.

If February is dry and cold, warmth will come early in March.

The earlier the blackthorn blooms in April, the earlier the harvest will be this year.

A cold May fills a farmer’s shed and barrel.

Rain in May, brings a year of bread and hay. (Yay, I managed one to rhyme!)

If the swallows stick around, don’t be afraid of winter.

The cuckoo won’t cry before the oat is green.

In June the sun has to cook what wants to be harvested in September.

There are hundreds and hundreds of these rhymes and nuggets of ancient wisdom, and even though a lot has changed, some of this knowledge is still valid today. People “in the olden days” were so much more in tune with the interconnections in Nature, they could see the causation for certain phenomena as they lived through them. Most were self-sufficient and gardening, farming and foraging were a life necessity, making it so much more important to observe Nature’s cycles and even slight shifts in temperature, moisture, animal behaviour and other natural occurrences.


The “farmer’s wisdom” most relevant for gardening in May is the observance of the “Ice Saints”, which always fall between the 11th and 15th of May. They are called:

11. Mai: Mamertus

12. Mai: Pankratius

13. Mai: Servatius

14. Mai: Bonifatius

15. Mai: Sophia – also called cold Sophie

The Ice Saints are based on a weather phenomenon, that carries arctic air from the Alps across Europe at this time of year and often causes frost overnight. Even though we are living in Ireland, where the Ice Saints are not known as much, I have found that any year I planted out sensitive veggies such as courgettes or tomatoes before the middle of May, they often froze on me. It’s also one of the pearls of gardening wisdom my dad always told me whenever I complained about my poor plants dying in early May.

So I will have to practice patience for the next two weeks before I plant out my little courgette and tomato babies ;-). 

Gardening is so much more than meets the eye. For me, it’s one of the greatest mindfulness teachers. Not only does it pull us into Nature’s cycles and rhythms, it also connects us to our ancestors and gives us the most wonderful opportunities to practice so many of the principles of mindfulness:







Mindfulness of body and breath

Especially for children, gardening can be a natural way to get in tune with the seasonal cycles, feel themselves as part of Nature, and learn about their food’s origin. So much learning can happen in a meaningful and motivating way without children realising they’re doing maths, English, history, geography, art, science and more.

School Gardening

One of my favourite sayings by Audrey Hepburn is:

“To grow a garden is believe in tomorrow”

Isn’t that what we all need?

If you would like to learn more about school gardening, I would highly recommend Dr. Paddy Madden’s website Engage with Nature, where you can get a wealth of tips and information.

If you are a parent and/or educator worried about children’s mental and physical health in relation to the climate crisis and a disconnect to Nature, come and join us for a comprehensive 4-module training in Mindful Nature Education. This wonderful course teaches skills and strategies about how to support our children and ourselves to reconnect to Nature and become more hopeful and proactive. In addition to the course materials you will receive ready-to-use resources worth over €200.

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