April is National Garden Month, so gather up your tools, seeds, and plants. It is time to get your hands in the dirt!

Many gardeners have spent the last few months paging through seed catalogs dreaming and planning this year’s crop. It is not too late! Garden Month encourages you to get out and start preparing your ground. Whether you are drawn to the colors, the spices or the flavors, the pleasure is in putting those seeds or plants in the ground and nurturing them along their way. 

No matter if you have an experienced Green Thumb or are new to the process, each season we learn from each other and find joy in improving our skills and know- ledge of the plants. Working the soil and seeing the result of our labor is nothing short of satisfying. If that doesn’t motivate you, be tempted by the scent of growing tomatoes or the sweet taste of homegrown strawberries.

The word “garden” traces its roots to Middle English, Old French, and Germanic languages, meaning a small enclosed piece of land next to a building. Gardens have played an important role in history, from sources of food to locations for leisure and entertainment. They’ve even been used to produce natural medicinals for the home. Depending on your habitat and desired aesthetic, there are multiple types of garden. In arid regions, for example, you may have cactus gardens that require little water. Bonsai gardens, on the other hand, are a Japanese art form in which small trees are trimmed and pruned to mimic the shape and scale of full size trees and landscapes. 

Gardens have also been used to create new habitats and resting places and sources of nourishment for bees, butterflies, and birds. These spaces are not only beautiful, but necessary for aiding these essential creatures whose natural habitats might be diminishing.

At Sonoma Hills, residents care for many of the gardening boxes around the grounds. You may notice how the various colors have attracted bees and butterflies during the spring and summer. While some beds grow mostly flowers, others are home to fruits and vegetables. Last spring residents and staff planted 150 pounds of tomatoes! Peppers, zucchini, onions, carrots, celery, assorted lettuces, green beans, radishes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, and chives were also grown in abundancy. Did you enjoy the fruits of the gardener’s labor? The many fruit trees around the grounds — figs, peaches, oranges, apples, plums and lemons — provide ingredients for the Sonoma Hills culinary staff, and can be found in our kitchen, dining room and are delicious snacks.

Currently, the boxes at Sonoma Hills are housing kale, pole beans, cabbage, lettuce, and a lot of flowers. In a few short weeks, spring planting will begin! Soon it is time to sow the seeds for our next harvest.

Embrace your love of gardening this month and appreciate the flavor of fresh foods and the process of growing from seed to ripened fruit and vegetable. Garden Month is time for all of us to connect with the outdoors, celebrate new life and enjoy Mother Nature’s handiwork.