If you’re like me, you spent most of your life having the worst luck with plants.
But I’m here to tell you: It’s not about luck. I honestly think to care for plants, you have to either:
- be the kind of person who naturally tunes into nature, or
- have reached a point in your life where you’re ready to slow down and start paying attention to the little things, and not be bothered when things don’t happen as fast as you want them to…at least not to the point where it drives you crazy.
I’m the latter. And it took until I was in my mid-30’s to get there. But I’ve benefited from gardening in a lot of ways. If you’ve thought about starting a garden, but you’re still on the fence, here are a handful of really good reasons to jump in and start digging.
Controlling where your food comes from
There are a lot of opinions about the origin of the food on your plate. Things like GMOs, government subsidies, pesticide use and labor regulations turn corn into controversy and grapes into guilt trips.
When you grow your own food, you get to side-step a lot of that. You know where it comes from, how it was grown, and when it was harvested. You know whether it was created with the help of a lab, what (if any) chemicals its absorbed, and whether the person who harvested it was fairly compensated for their work.
That’s not to say having a small garden in your back yard means you no longer have to think about your food choices. You can’t grow everything yourself, and ethics will still be a problem for the food industry in general.
But it’s nice to take some of your food out of the equation.
Learning to eat with the seasons
Before the age of industrialization—before frozen foods and shelf-life prolonging additives were the norm—people ate according to what came up out of the ground.
In the spring, there was peas and asparagus. In the summer, there was corn and tomatoes. In the fall and winter, there were potatoes and winter squash. These days, you can get anything at any time of year.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just going to mean that your strawberries from South America probably won’t be that fresh when they get to you, and won’t taste nearly as good as the ones you pick from your yard in June.
And if you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, growing a bumper crop of broccoli and freezing the overabundance for later is way easier on the environment than trucking or flying it thousands of miles in the middle of February.
Patience…truckloads of it
My mom is a saint. But I did not inherit her seemingly endless store of patience. Maybe I’m a product of my generation, but if I want something, I want it now.
Gardens, though? Yeah, they don’t work that way. You can add all the organic fertilizer you want, but they’re still only going to grow so fast.
The thing is, in the meantime, you learn to pay attention. To notice small changes, and respond to quiet needs before they become a big problem. It’s a great skill to develop and it helps you chill the hell out.
Developing a closer relationship with your food
I’m pretty open about the fact that for a few years in my 20’s, I struggled with anorexia. A lot of very difficult things were happening, and I felt like I had no control. So I controlled my food.
I’ve recovered to the extent that anyone who’s had an eating disorder can. But ever since then, I’ve had a weird relationship with food. It has been both my comfort and my nemesis. My nourishment and my weakness. But gardening has started to change that.
Nurturing vegetables, fruits and herbs from seeds or seedlings, watering them and watching them grow—it’s like a story. A relationship that builds over time and culminates in very conscious consumption. You don’t just eat—you taste and remember and feel grateful to your past self for putting in the work, and to the earth for bringing it forth. And it’s lovely.
Room for experimentation
There aren’t many places in life where you get to completely wipe the slate clean and start all over without wasting an enormous amount of time and money.
But gardening lets you do exactly that.
Every year, you have the chance to start fresh. Those onions you grew last year that didn’t do so hot in storage over the winter? You don’t have to plant them, you can plant a different kind. Or maybe you discovered that growing corn is a pain in the ass and not worth the trouble—or the worry every time a wind storm kicks up. Or maybe you planted about a bazillion times too much basil.
Rip it all out at the end of the season, mulch it all in, and go back to the drawing board on your own terms.
There are exceptions, obviously. If you planted asparagus, you have a dedicated patch that will be there for years (keep that in mind before planting!). Same with strawberries and blueberries—a good reason to pot blueberries!
Anyway, grow something bigger. Grow something smaller. Grow something harder or grow something way, WAY easier. You get to decide. And then you get to eat it. It’s AWESOME.
Have another reason for starting a garden? I want to hear what it was that inspired you! Tell me all about it.