I’ve been meaning to do a garden update, but more than anything lately I’ve been thinking about how gardening has helped me and improved my life. Each passing year I grow more in love with the process of planting a seed and watching it grow (or not!). Gardening gives me hope in the dark, bleak days of winter by reading seed catalogs and sketching plans. In early spring it draws us out of the house in thankfulness and a feeling of “deliverance”. We work like our lives depend on it but the reality is, it’s just fun. By summer I’m cursing the weeds and the weather all the while standing in amazement of the lush, jungle of bounty maturing before my eyes. Come late summer and early fall during peak canning and preserving season I’m seriously doubting my sanity. Before I know it we’ve tucked the garden in for winter and we are thanking God for the delicious homegrown food we can enjoy until the process starts over again.
More people would be gardening if they knew just how this hobby would benefit their lives as well. We all have our own motives. Have you ever asked yourself any of the following questions or thought the statements below? If so, you just may need to start a garden of your own…
#1 My grocery budget is out of control. How can I save a bit here and there?
Even the most basic garden will provide fresh produce all summer long. A small garden space is sufficient for lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, herbs, & flowers. This could easily save a couple hundred dollars each summer. A large garden space makes room for even more of the above and can then be preserved for eating all year long. I haven’t bought salsa, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or crushed tomatoes in over a year. Buying one pint of each per week at the grocery (of good quality) would likely cost me $500 each year. To see real savings it’s important that the upfront costs of creating the garden beds and plants are kept to a minimum. This can be done by borrowing a rototiller from a friend to break new ground or opting for no-till “lasagna” garden and scavenging for cardboard boxes, compost, manure, leaves, spent straw, etc. Equally important is starting plants from seed instead of buying transplants at the store. A packet of hundreds of lettuce seeds is about $1.50 while one lettuce plant may be $2.00.
#2 I want to buy “clean” food but prices at health food stores are outrageous.
They are outrageous. I get sticker shock looking at the organic produce at the grocery. I could never ever swing that. I really don’t know where that food came from and under what conditions it was grown. Even organic fruit and vegetables grown at factory farm levels are mostly likely heavily doused with approved organic pesticides and herbicides. I’d rather save the $5.00 for a pack of 20 blueberries and plant a few bushes of my own.
#3 These kids are going to eat me out of house and home. Do they ever stop asking for snacks??!!
Some of my children drop the “I’m hungry” comment as often as other children like to say “I’m bored”. They love them some snacks…three a day to be precise. Then we spend mealtime talking about how many more bites they need to eat. So now I stock minimal snacks other than fruit and the occasional bag of chips and peanuts. A garden can be a place of snacking. If they are truly hungry they can run and see what’s growing and munch to their hearts desire on cherry tomatoes, green beans, peas, and berries. It solves hunger AND boredom.
#4 I really need to join the gym and start exercising.
Okay I’ve never said this but I know many other people have. The physical fitness aspect that comes with gardening is just a lucky bi-product for me. Mike calls it Earth’s Gym. A light day of gardening such as planting seeds, weeding, and harvesting involves lots of bending and squatting and arm lifting. A heavy day of gardening like making new beds and slinging mulch gives me the kind of workout with sweat dripping in places I never knew possible. So I can cross that off my to-do list.
#5 I wish my kids would play outside more and spend less time on technology.
My kids love tech time as much as any other children. We do limit it to some degree because they don’t quite know how to not overindulge. Gardening can help. On almost every occasion that I wander off to the garden eventually a child or two or all will follow like a trail. They want to be where we are. This year we got each of them their own raised garden bed that they tend to (or not). Everyone but the baby has taken great care of planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting their beds. I love watching them out there. It’s so healthy for them to see food growing. They take note of the various birds, butterflies, and insects. They are aware of the weather. It helps my kids not get too terribly engrossed in video games (or themselves) and instead feel a part of nature.
#6 I’m in a rut and it’s time I learn something new. I want to feed my creative side.
If you choose, designing a garden can be like redesigning a room in your home. Each season it can be redesigned to be more efficient and pleasing to the eye. I could garden the rest of my life and never stop learning about different visual layouts, colors schemes, melding together of perennials and vegetables. The library has hundreds of garden books full of gorgeous pictures to get ideas. Of course Pinterest is full of eye candy for inspiration. Nothing gets me going more than photographs of European countrysides…ahhhh. Also, now that I’ve grown one million cucumbers what’s a girl to do with them all? It’s time to get creative in the kitchen.
#7 I’m in a rut and it’s time I learn something new…maybe something of the sciences.
Okay most likely no one says this. Before gardening I could give two hoots about the pH of anything. Nothing about the periodic table of elements was affecting my day. I certainly didn’t follow weather patterns. Now I’m studying the necessary conditions for storing crops because some like it dark, or light, or cold. Some like high humidity so as to not dry out and some need low humidity so as to not get mushy. Broadening horizons in the science department is another bi-product of gardening.
#8 I’m looking for more adventure and spontaneity in my life.
I need to go no further than my garden for a daily dose of joy, humor, frustration beyond belief. A good adventure for me is one that offers the gamut of human emotions rolled into one package ultimately ending in joy and satisfaction. Gardening is challenging. Every year is different than the next and I never know what to expect. I’ll never say I’m a good gardener. It’s like the garden tolerates me and appeases me, but I am not in the driver seat. Some days I visit the garden to find an itty bitty bug laid hundreds of eggs on the kale plants which now requires tending to (or not). But other visits will gift me huge returns in the form of gorgeous lavender blossoms and butternut squash.
#9 I’d like to take a gift to my friend who had a baby, new neighbor, friend hosting a party…
Each year, depending on what crop grows in abundance, it’s fun to make a novelty item that can be gifted to those around me. Last year I canned a dozen or so pints of bruschetta. Then when an occasion arose to bring a small gift I had something on hand. This is the year of the pickle so don’t be surprised if you receive a pint of sweet & spicy pickles.
#10 I’m looking to be more community oriented and meet people.
There is no gardener, anywhere not ever, who doesn’t want to talk about their garden. That’s half the point of gardening I think. We toil at home, then head out among ‘em to discuss the ups and downs of the season. What’s growing good? This weather is killing me. A hornworm took out my tomato crop. It’s like having a first born child and we the parents want to share every detail. I can look to those around me for trading produce, for advice, and for plant divisions. Community gardens are a growing trend for those who’d like to gather and garden with neighbors. Since the dawn of ages growing food has pulled us out of our shells.
And last but not least…
#11 Life is a bit stressful right now.
Sometimes day to day stresses really get to us and people have different ways of coping like medicine, yoga, and a strong prayer life. The very act of walking among the garden is calming and clears my mind. I am so grateful for any life I encounter here it’s impossible not to see that it is God’s gift for me. Last night I picked a beautiful bouquet of lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm to dry for projects. These herbs offer many health benefits for the weary. The garden is the perfect stress reliever.
Sometimes I wonder how and what I would grow if I didn’t live in the country. I like to believe that if I lived on a second story balcony I would learn to plant in containers much like they do in countries all around the world. If I lived in a residential neighborhood, portions of my lawn, front and back, would be turned into beautiful garden beds. When I get to the point in life when it’s too hard to hang out on my knees and getting up and down is a struggle (they say it’ll happen eventually) I’ll have chest height garden beds. My garden feeds me in so many more ways than just food.
How will YOUR garden grow? (Keep me posted)