June 9, 2011

Why I garden

It’s come that time of year for the requisite garden posts. Which is fine with me - it means I can put off weeding for another day in order to write.

Why do you garden?

Our garden is an endless series of science demos. Watching the garden grow, trying to figure out what’s going on in it, trying to achieve certain outcomes, we have learned about biology, chemistry, the odd bit of physics, meteorology, climatology, geology, entomology and more than a little about human physiology.

Our garden is entertainment. We don’t just work in the garden then pick the produce. We also walk amongst the beds just to look. Sometimes I get down on the ground to watch the bugs or to get a closer look at the flowers. We sit outside to watch the birds, to watch the cats stretch on the grass, to see the butterflies dart and dip through the branches. In nicer weather we’ll sit outside to watch the sun set. We have important and heartfelt discussions, we have silly chats, sometimes we don’t say anything. We like showing off the garden. We like sharing it with people who garden and with people who’ve never seen an artichoke outside of a restaurant before. We have parties under the spring dogwood flowers and we have parties to harvest the horseradish.

Our garden allows us, asks us to learn new skills. I picked up a power drill for the first time to make my first raised garden beds. I’m learning to can, freeze, dehydrate and pickle some of what we grow in the garden so that it will last past the season. I’m learning about composting by doing, and about worm bins and raising chickens in anticipation of doing.

Our garden is great therapy. I’ve got a family history of cyclic depression. Getting outside in the sunshine, moving around, watching things grow helps me be a happier, healthier, functional me. It helps get me off my butt, out of the house, away from the TV. The garden has become one of my Happy Places. It’s exercise too. Digging around in the dirt, clipping tree branches, walking the compost from the bin to each of the plants, hauling around new plants and moving older plants. The garden gives us reasons to look forward – planning the new seed list, the first green sprouts and buds of the year, picking all the fabulous fruits & veggies, waiting for the mason bees to hatch from their eggs, looking in spring for all the birds who’d left us for the winter. The garden also gives us reasons to look back – the blueberries we ate as soon as they were ripe, discovering not just the pea pods and mustard leaves were tasty but so were the pea shoots and mustard flowers, how maybe we can make changes to how we grow the pumpkins so we can get a few more of them.

Our garden teaches us patience. Even if we wanted to do it all at once, we can’t afford to replace the rusted busted fence and arbor vitae with the nice new pretty fence and grape vines at the same time as we’re laying down the hazelnut shells for garden paths along with paying someone to dig out the blackberry infestation in the backyard (as well as next door and in the property behind us…). Nor can we do all the weeding and pruning and mowing and planting at once as it’s just not physically possible for either of us. Our wallets and bodies have limitations that require us to prioritize our projects. What do we need done right now? What do we want done right now? What do we need to drop everything for because the weather is only going to be good for two more days before the rain sets back in?

Our garden is full of satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like digging up potatoes with your own hands. Making carrot pickles that come out just right. Cooking up pasta sauce with your own tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. Watching the flowers open just a little bit more each day of the week until they’re a riot of bloom. Knowing we’ve kept the garden organic – no pesticides, no artificial fertilizers. Knowing it’s okay for the little kids to roll around face-first in the grass and for friends to try a huckleberry straight off the bush.

Our garden is a pretty good place to be.

Why do you garden?

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post, Wendy. I'm so glad I didn't miss it. You have "spoken" my words quite eloquently, NOW, get back to weeding, lol.

    When I first began gardening many years ago, it was for preservation. Preservation of my soul, raising two small children alone, preserving our food so I could provide them with good nourishing, organic food (it was the 70s:) and lastly and just as importantly, to give back to the earth.

    I now garden for pretty much the same reasons but no longer do I grow brussels sprouts and get a kick out of showing people how cool they look as they reach for the sky. I still garden for preservation, only the crops have changed.

    Thank you so much for sharing...