The Root of All Sin

When I became a Christian in high school, I remember pastor talking about “ripping sin out by the root.” After all, just like a weed, if you just pull out what’s at the surface, the root will just regrow the plant. It’ll be a constant battle, better to just rip it all out and out be done with it.

I believed this for many years – both in my spirit and in my garden – until I discovered permaculture and matured in my faith.

When we bought the house we’re currently in, I remember pointing out the small clump of bamboo in the corner of the backyard to my husband. Our first date was at a Japanese restaurant, so based on sentiment, I decided it could stay. Also, the bamboo made a beautiful green screen and needed no love and care to grow.

I quickly realized the previous owners did not plant it. Our neighbors did. And what’s worse, it was running bamboo. Instead of forming clumps, it formed lines and traveled. Every spring it would send out roots the size of ropes you would use for docking a boat, and from those, the canes would spring up. You’d see a cane one day as a cute little shoot, a few inches high; less than a week later, it was taller than me. The root, nourished by the photosynthesis of the cane, would send out more roots and canes. If left to its own devices, my yard would quickly be overrun with bamboo.

Pastor’s words echoed in my mind: pull out the roots of this sinful plant.

Every spring, I’d go out with my forest axe to chop the roots – the only thing in my arsenal that would work on these tough-as-nails plants – and pull with all my might to rip the root rope out of the earth. Sometimes I’d hit what I call a junction – one bamboo root growing over another bamboo root. I’d have to stop and hack through that and figure out where its source was. In short, most of my backyard looked like a war zone, completely upended in the name of controlling bamboo.

I once killed a blueberry bush because it popped out of the ground while chasing a particularly deep bamboo root.

This was my reality for several years, yet it worked; I kept the bamboo in check.

And then, I discovered no-dig gardening and permaculture.

No-dig gardening is just that, not tilling the soil because the web of microbes that are making your soil fertile will be destroyed (ever notice the Lord never tills in His creation?). Permaculture, introduced to me by my atheist cousin, is really just letting nature do as God intended without pesticides, without fertilizer, and caring for creation: everything I nourish my garden with was made by God. It goes beyond the “organic” gardening movement.

As I embraced this form of agriculture, I was still left with the bamboo problem. Not only was it hard labor, but I kept resetting my soil to year zero every year. No wonder my orchard wasn’t growing well! And yet, I couldn’t allow the bamboo to reign.

I also thought about how I handle sin in my life. Even if I kept myself in a Christian bubble, only interacting with other Christians, consuming only Christian media, and only reading my Bible or other books written by Christians, I know I’d still manage to sin. There would still be bamboo roots growing somewhere in life, despite my best intentions of digging out that root of sin. I lived in said Christian bubble for three months straight without access to the outside world and it didn’t make me more holy.

What’s a non-cloistered girl to do?

When sin comes into our lives, sometimes it just shows up and it wasn’t invited in, like my bamboo. It’s there. It’s going to be there. I can’t control my neighbor’s yard, only my yard.

So this year, contrary to pastor’s advice of “rip out the roots,” I thought – along the lines of permaculture – what if I just starve the root? After our first big rain of spring, the shoots popped up all over the place. On my daily walk through the garden, I’d pull the bamboo shoot out. It popped out easily, and I’d lay it on the ground so it would become part of the soil. Within five minutes and minimal effort, I pulled all the shoots. A few days later, more shoots arrived. Pop, pop, pop. Those shoots were gone. The root was still in the ground, but it takes a lot of energy to make a shoot and the root was tired – it needed the food the shoot would provide once it leafed out into a proper cane.

That root gave up.

I won: my yard is on year two of soil web fertility (my orchard is healthy and strong!) and my yard is bamboo free, except for the corner where I want it. I’ve found bamboo makes lovely tomato cages and for extra fun, throw some in the firepit: the nodes explode with a loud bang.

I’ve taken the same approach to sin: it’s up to me to take stock of what’s going on and when I find a shoot, pull it. Yeah, the root will try again, but it’s not worth me pulling it out and destroying everything to get to the root – it’ll return next season, regardless. And for those places where a shoot becomes a cane, I’ll cut that cane down. Of course, I’ve given the root a charge, it’ll try again soon, but at least I know to be on the look out for shoots in that area.

The more I garden and the more I walk with Jesus, I see how much it is all intertwined.

Natural Farming

I’ve always said I was an organic farmer with the little patch of agriculture I have in my backyard. Since the pandemic, I dug up the land around my house to use as a garden. It has been mildly successful.

My cousin was an uber organic farmer, going as far as composting human waste – well out of my comfort zone. Currently, he is a guest of the Bureau of Prisons, a federal outfit. And because of this, we have become pen pals.

I kept him up to date with my gardening adventures and he suggested a book about natural farming. I was intrigued. I figured natural farming meant organic farming, but it was something completely different.

Natural farming was a technique developed by a Japanese man named Masanobu Fukuoka. He believes one should let nature take its course – as the Lord intended – instead of using pure science and unsustainable farming techniques of modern America, which in the long term, are not sustainable. While Mr. Fukkuoka does not come out and say it, it makes sense that the Lord developed all this for a reason.

Natural farming has four rules:

  • No plowing or tilling of soil
  • No chemical fertilizer or prepared compost; one should use clover or other cover crops as a ground cover.
  • No weeding by tillage or herbicides; to combat weeds, one should use straw mulch, clover, or temporary flooding; the goal should be controlling weeds, not eliminating them
  • No dependence on chemicals for gardening

Instead of adding to the soil with anhydrous ammonia and other chemicals, Mr. Fukuoka says you should use plants to add goodness to the soil, which in turn, also nourish the soil microbes that make plant life possible – without happy microbes, your soil is not healthy. Not only is it cheaper, but it much more efficient than the chemicals and “organic fertilizers” from the store. It has completely changed how I look at my garden.

Man made MiracleGro. God made the natural world. Which would you trust?

A more modern term for what I’m doing is permaculture. I hope to have a food forest in my backyard in the coming years. I’m interplanting other plants that add things to the soil or deter pests among my garden vegetables. Instead of getting a truckload of mulch delivered, I decided to have a “living mulch” in the form of the humble clover.

Clover makes a great groundcover and provides the soil with nitrogen, an element needed for leafy growth. I put it in both my garden and the lawn. I even tried my hand at planting rice in the garden. The plants grew, but they haven’t made any seed heads yet.

The real magic will take place this winter: I am overcropping. Instead of leaving my beds fallow over the winter, they will be fields of rye and hairy vetch. These grain/legumes will add more nitrogen to the soil, improve soil quality, keep erosion at bay, and nourish the spring plantings.

While I am still quite new at all this, I hope to take all the lessons I learned this year and apply them fully to next year’s garden.

And the best part? I’m growing food using nature as God intended.