Looking back over the garden season, I am immensely grateful for all the joy and rewards that gardening brings. Most obviously, the garden produces large quantities of super-fresh food. Freshly dug potatoes and onions are crisp, juicy and remarkably tasty. Strawberries, allowed to ripen on the plants, taste sweet and succulent, unlike the somewhat tart ones you can buy at the store, picked before they are ripe. In addition to the incredible freshness, the food is clean as well. Even if you have to use some form of pest or fungus control, chances are you used a more natural product than commercial farmers and/or you probably used far less than large-scale producers may have to use.
Garden food is also cheap. A trip to the grocery shows just how pricey food can be. In the home garden, you can grow a year’s worth of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, squash and beans for $20 or so. If you don’t have a plot of land, consider growing vegetables in containers. With more fresh food on hand, you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables, and they are the perfect health food.
It’s not just the healthy nature of the food that the garden produces. Gardening is a real boost to maintaining an active body. “Use it or lose it” is one of those sayings that just turns out to be true. Gardening encourages us to bend, stretch, dig, reach and carry far more than we would in the normal course of a day. By the end of the gardening season, your muscles are stronger and your breathing may be easier.
Gardening can also help your mental acuity. Solving puzzles has long been recognized as good exercise for the brain and the garden certainly offers us a few challenges each season. Solving problems with crop failure or diseased plants may not be any fun, but the research and discussion can stimulate that brain. Planning each year’s garden, keeping in mind growth habits, companion growing, personal preferences and the suitability of the land offers opportunity for artistic design as well as intellectual pursuit.
Gardening also soothes the soul, calms the stresses of the day and allows us to focus on what is important. Being out in nature reminds us of the ongoing cycle of life on this beautiful planet. In the fall, we see leaves drop from the trees, perennials fade into nothingness and the birds fly south. By January, the outside world can look to be a hollow shell of its summer self. But gardeners know that life is on hold, soon to begin bursting forth in February and March, exploding with color and bird song by June. My father’s health failed one summer and while waiting for the inevitable end, I spent as much time as possible in the garden. It completely absorbed me and allowed me to focus my grieving brain on the beauty and spirit of nature. In these tumultuous times, the garden may be your saving grace.
Gardening also provides for the future. Unless our children learn how to grow their own food, who will grow the food? Digging in the dirt is a favorite childhood pastime and you can take advantage of that and teach them all about growing food and flowers. Remind them that you have super powers: You can grow your own food! Not only can you share the knowledge of growing with your children, you can help friends learn the art of growing. Sharing the harvest with friends and neighbors is one of the more exciting aspects of gardening and may inspire them to grow as well.
Beverly Carney can be reached at email@example.com.