Whew! Another gardening season is almost in the books. The last few weeks have been spent in the kitchen cleaning, chopping, canning and freezing veggies. On a good note, the pantry is full. The garden has been fruitful in spite of dealing with bugs, fungus, weeds, too much rain, not enough rain and critters.
As I am getting older, just a tad bit, this year I have been asked more than a few times why I go to the bother to have a garden. Besides the work, it ties me down…no summer vacation here. It probably is more expensive than it would be to just buy the veggies, cost-wise I have never figured it up because I really don’t want to know.
So, why do I do it? Well, there are the obvious reasons like knowing where your food comes from and how it is raised; having fresh produce whenever you want it; and having exactly what you want, when you want it. But, there is more to it than that. There are so many reasons why I would recommend having a garden to everyone, regardless of where you live.
First of all, it is good for your health. Sure, the fresh veggies are good for you, but just the act of gardening provides a host of health benefits. With planting, weeding and harvesting, working the garden provides plenty of exercise. It has been proven to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and stroke, as well as improve the immune system…and those are just the physical benefits.
Gardening does wonders to reduce depression, anger and stress. These days, most careers offer their fair dose of stress with looming deadlines, peer pressure and being tied to technology for long hours. I dare anyone to walk away from a garden and not feel less stressed. Fresh air, sunshine and, sometimes, soothing raindrops do wonders to soothe the soul. When I am there, it is just me and my garden.
Of course, it is hard not to eat more fresh produce when it is right outside your door. During winter, it is easy to shy away from buying all the different veggies at the store to make a salad. You always have a little of this and a little of that left. With a garden, you cut the lettuce, pull the radishes and carrots and harvest whatever else you have and only take what you need for that day. Besides that, it can’t get much fresher.
There is also something special about knowing that you planted the seeds, watered them, weeded the tiny plants, fertilized them and nurtured them to maturity. All of my plants are my babies, I usually check them morning and night, not to mention being out there most of the day anyway. There is power in reaping a harvest from something that you planted as a dormant seed.
When I work in the garden, whether it is wet or dry, I like nothing better than kicking my shoes off and feeling the soil under my feet. There is something about feeling the warm earth under you that grounds you and brings you back in touch with the good earth and nature.
There is actually a name for going barefoot. It is known as earthing. Yes, many of us remember the counter culture of the 1960’s and the hippie movement where many of them didn’t wear shoes. Well, since then earthing has been scientifically researched and the results show a number of positive health benefits. Among them are increased antioxidants, reduced inflammation and sleep improvement. It boils down to absorbing electrons from the earth improves health.
Maybe our forefathers had this advantage without knowing it. Many of them went barefoot simply because they didn’t have any footwear. For me, I just know it feels good and helps me to get back to basics. Perhaps it is time to take a step back in time…barefoot, that is.
Another reason that I garden, and perhaps the most important one, is that I want to show the next generation how important it is to be connected to our food supply. It is not only those that live in the city, but many folks that live in the country and do have enough ground to have a garden do not bother anymore. With farmers’ markets and supermarkets in close proximity, sometimes it seems moot to go to the bother to plant your own food.
Yes, it is easier to go and buy what you want, but it doesn’t help the next generation to know where the source of their food is. When Wyatt was just little, he would come out and help in the garden. He learned quickly that, if you didn’t pull the root of the weed out, you were pulling the same weed the next week. He learned how all the different vegetables grew. The rule was that he had to take at least one bite of everything that he helped with in the garden. Lots of things he still doesn’t like, but at least he has been exposed to them and knows how they grow.
In this technical world that we live in, it is important to get back to basics and to know where the food supply starts. Only through this understanding can future farmers, gardeners, scientists and horticulturists make improvements in quality and quantity to feed the world.
Besides all of this, gardening just feels good. It is my haven away from the tensions, demands and rat race that we all call life. For four months out of the year, I have this paradise in my own backyard that provides peace and sanity from a weary world.
So, next year, even if you only have a few square feet, kick your shoes off, plant a few seeds and watch not only the crop grow but also a little calm and peace.