I'm starting to comb the Bible for its gardens, what they might symbolize, and what they can teach today's gardeners and food growers. I expect to find some combination of paradisaical garden-as-privilege (ie Eden), concrete instruction (God telling the people of Israel how to farm, how to eat, what to grow because we didn't make it in His garden), and garden-as-retreat (from burial places to the garden of Gethsemane).
Of course I land first on "the" garden of the Bible:
"The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. And from the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad." --Genesis 2:8-9
The connection between man and growing food jumps out at me in this verse. God planted the garden, but placed man there immediately. Why else create a garden that is "good for food" if there's no one there who needs nourishment?
I've always understood the Hebrew Bible to be fundamentally about the relationship between privilege and responsibility. God will show us a good land and how to live there, but it's our responsibility to only accept the good land if we're willing to commit to the "how-to." This first biblical garden is so powerful to me because it really highlights that relationship.
After all, a few verses later we read "The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it." So there's always a job to do, always work involved if rewards are to be reaped. There's a pleasing fairness to the arrangement, even if human nature is to rebel against such control. As Adam and Eve did.
As we know, they didn't last long in this paradise of perfect work-reward balance, and we've been trying to get back to Eden since the moment of their exile. So have we landed on a primal reason why we create garden spaces and grow food at home, in community gardens, or in churchyards? Perhaps the human yearning we connect with there is about more than eating, it's about growing. Growing back to Eden, maybe.