Today's New York Times has an article about the large increase in the number of people planting a garden this year for growing some of their own fruit and vegetables, some expanding their plantings and some plunging their hands into the dirt for the very first time. Many explanations are given (taste, health, food safety, organic, cost, etc), but most of the article seems to focus on highlighting people who are concerned with the increasing costs of food (staples and perishable foods like fruits and vegetables).
I didn't grow up on a farm, but my parents did have a vegetable garden in our city yard, including 4 small sections that my 3 brothers and I were in charge of planting. I don't remember how many years we did that, but I do remember that my grandparents had gardens, both my grandparents in the city of Chicago who had just the teensiest yard possible (we played on the sidewalk and in the street when we visited) but somehow raised quite a few of their own vegetables plus my grandparents in northern Wisconsin who had bought an old abandoned farm and brought part of it back to life with their large backyard garden.
When I first met my husband in the fall of 1970, one of our very first dates was to go apple picking and then we went to his garden to do some weeding. Somehow he had talked his way into having a garden at the land reserved for gardens for those students living in the married student apartments, even though #1, he was not married, and #2, he did not live in the apartments that had use of that university property. That unusual start to our friendship and ultimate marriage was the beginning of our decades of gardening together. :-)
I heartily agree with with my friend Melinda Hemmelgarn (author of the column Food Sleuth published in the Columbia, MO newspaper) who has said the following:
“We should all be growing some of our food, we should be cooking most of it, and we should know all of it,” she said. “I tell my husband that growing food together is second only to having children together.”
Some years (in fact, many years) life got in the way and we were too busy or I was too ill to really manage a large garden. However, we are again (finally) serious and passionate gardeners and continually evaluating how we can get even more land into production for our food needs. We are voluntarily tied to the land and the seasons and understand that traveling during the growing and harvesting season will not be as easy for us from this point forward. We are content with that decision.
So why do I love gardening? All of the reasons mentioned in the NYTimes article certainly apply. However, I will add several more thoughts that are important to me:
• I love being outside period! In addition,
• I love listening to the birds, bees, frogs, and the wind in the trees
• I love smelling the dirt, flowers, and changing weather conditions
• I love never knowing what I'll see, such as finding a toad
• I wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, and long jeans most of the time, but I hope I am getting a good dose of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, hopefully enough to last me through those long northern winters, which are especially long and gray in Michigan.
• I enjoy meeting new people. This is easy in a community garden (wearing my "Eat More Kale" t-shirt helps to make people laugh and say "hi"!), and really points to a benefit of front-yard vegetable gardening.
• I enjoy meeting people who are interested in growing and eating great food and sharing recipes and ideas, problem-solving, and experiences.
• I enjoy teaching and also learning. Tonight my husband and I met two women who had never eaten strawberries fresh from the garden. Seeing the expression on their faces after sharing some of our freshly picked organic strawberries was just lovely. :-) In addition, my husband had a great discussion with another gardener at our community garden about the merits of various brands of rototillers.
• Gardening time is both exercise time and mediation time for me. I am very very content in our garden, both alone and with my husband, and consider this time an essential component of optimizing my "cancer survivorship" efforts.
• I'll bet that as soon as I push the button that say "publish" this post, I'll think of at least 5 more reasons why I love gardening.
Several years ago, I found these thoughts about gardening and life, which I shared in one of my Email newsletters. I thought it was time to dig it out an share it again. I certainly want my food grown with this amount of care. Thus, I'll end with it as a blessing.
THE GARDEN (~~author unknown)
FOR THE GARDEN OF YOUR DAILY LIVING,
PLANT THREE ROWS OF PEAS:
1. Peace of mind
2. Peace of heart
3. Peace of soul
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF SQUASH:
1. Squash gossip
2. Squash indifference
3. Squash grumbling
4. Squash selfishness
PLANT FOUR ROWS OF LETTUCE:
1. Lettuce be faithful
2. Lettuce be kind
3. Lettuce be patient
4. Lettuce really love one another
NO GARDEN IS WITHOUT TURNIPS:
1. Turnip for meetings
2. Turnip for service
3. Turnip to help one another
TO CONCLUDE OUR GARDEN WE MUST HAVE THYME:
1. Thyme for each other
2. Thyme for family
3. Thyme for friends
WATER FREELY WITH PATIENCE AND CULTIVATE WITH LOVE. THERE IS MUCH FRUIT IN YOUR GARDEN BECAUSE YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW.
Have you started a fruit or vegetable garden this year, large or small, on your patio or in some window boxes? Is it your first time to do so? Why did you start? What have been your surprises and pleasures? I would just love to hear about them!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD