How I Give Back to My Garden to Thank Nature

All too often, we think about what our gardens can give us and not about what we can give back.

Woman holding basket with vegetables.
ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images

All too often, we think about what our gardens can give us and not about what we can give back. When trying to live in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, it is important to move beyond an extractive mindset and towards a regenerative way of thinking. We should move away from the idea that we can just take, take, take, and remember that reciprocity (give and take) is key to our connection with the natural world, as well as with each other. 

Returning Surplus to the System

Learning how to give back to your garden is key in practical terms. Of course, we need to feed the soil. We need to nurture and support the natural environment to continue to receive the things it gives. 

We must return the surplus to the system—channeling back excess to make sure the system is stable and self-sustaining over time. While obtaining a range of yields, we also need to be aware of the toll that our use of resources can take. 

Giving back might involve composting: This is one key way to return nutrients to the soil. Mulching with organic matter, and using liquid plant feeds, are other key ways to ensure, in practical terms, that the health and fertility of the garden are maintained. 

Woman's hands throwing food scraps in the compost heap.
Francesco Vaninetti Photo / Getty Images

Recognizing Nature's Gifts 

But giving back to your garden is not only a practical matter. In my opinion, as gardeners, it is also hugely important we recognize the yields that we receive as gifts from the natural world. 

Nature bestows a huge range of gifts upon us—both tangible yields (like food, medicine, crafting materials, fuels, and more) and non-tangible yields such as shade, beauty, relaxation, joy, etc. As we look around us, it is clear just how much we have to be grateful for. 

Many of the problems in today's world come from the idea that the natural world is just something placed there for the taking—something to be used and exploited for our benefit. Thinking about nature's bounty not as resources that belong to us, but as gifts that are given, can help us recognize that like any other gifts, these things come with a certain obligation or responsibility. 

When we receive gifts from other people, it is commonly understood that thanks and some kind of responsive gesture are required. If we think in the same way about nature in our gardens, this can be a helpful way to reset our relationship with the world around us. 

It can help us to make sure that we live and work in harmony with the natural world, respecting and valuing it as we should. It can help us begin to see that we should try to consider what gifts we can give to the natural world around us in return. 

Give Thanks Actively Through Your Actions

The problem with thanking plants or the wildlife which aids you in your garden is, of course, that we do not speak the same language. You can't simply walk up to a fruit tree, for example, and thank it out loud for the fruits it provides. Though you may wish to give thanks in a literal way, perhaps through a small, silent thought. 

But giving thanks for nature's gifts is not really about saying the words. Rather, we should think about giving thanks is something we do not through what we say, but through what we do. 

Just as we can show those important people in our lives how thankful we are for them and what they do, so too we should try to make time to show other beings in the natural world our gratitude. 

Spend time in observation, getting to know the plants and animal life around you in a deeper and more intimate way.

Value the natural world as a teacher and guide—keeping your ears, minds, and hearts open to the lessons it teaches us. 

Manage your garden in a way that encourages rich biodiversity to thrive. Sow, plant, propagate, and combine plants in beneficial ways. 

Take action to aid when required, but know when to simply let things take their course and adopt a policy of non-intervention to let nature take the reigns. 

All of these things can make a big difference. They are important ways to give back to your garden and express the thankfulness you feel to the natural world. Remember, when it comes to giving thanks, "show don't tell" is the key phrase to live by.