Why Do I Garden?

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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I’m hoping that everyone had an awesome Christmas and got every thing that they wanted. My wish for this Christmas was to see my grandson in Texas. It didn’t quite work out the way I hoped with his coming back to my house, but I did get to see him. I had to drive to Texas to do it. He is 10 years old and is fascinated with Lego kits and robots. I happen to find on the Internet a company that blends the two together and has kits that use Lego blocks to build remote controlled robots. My best Christmas present was to see his face when he opened the presents. It was only a short two-day visit but well worth the drive. Now comes the big wait to see him again for the summer in June.

This last week as I scanned through my usual gardening blogs. The posts were about why they garden. Some were to eliminate store-bought chemically laden foods. Some were about wanting to know how it was grown or what nutrients were given to the plants. The reasons were many and all good ones. It made me begin to wonder about just why I have chosen to garden.

Over the years I have always been drawn to gardening and have attempted it a few times only to fail because of work and family demands. That desire to till the soil survived over the years and never really went away. I have come to believe that the very roots of my gardening desire came from generations of farming ancestors as far back as can be researched. My ancestors on my dad’s side came from Germany and Mom’s came from the Slavic countries. All were tillers of the soil. I’m pretty sure they all arrived here in Nebraska during the early 1800s. My great-grandfather was actually part of the Oklahoma land rush. He wasn’t in the first wave of those who raced in to stake their claims as portrayed on TV and movies, but went there several months after the territory opened up for claims. He just couldn’t make a living there so brought his family back to Nebraska to live out the rest of his days.

Every generation on both sides of my family have been involved in farming to some degree. My dad never made his living by farming but always had a hand in farming and most always owned a small farm of 100 acres or less. I didn’t know it at the time but those genetics in me were being fueled all during my primary years of education by being raised around farm life.

During the 1970s, I found two magazines that I devoured from cover to cover. Mother Earth News was a new kind of magazine on the racks and Organic Gardening was another of my favorites. I can remember owning single digit copies of New Mother Earth magazines. Every lunch hour at work would find me at the near-by library reading the gardening magazines that I couldn’t afford. I just couldn’t get enough information about growing gardens.

During the 1980s, some new books came on the market. One was by Ruth Stout about the no-work method of gardening, and Rodale Publishing cranked out numerous books on organic gardening. I never really figured out why it was called organic gardening until years later. It just looked like how my mom had taught me to garden as a child. Even Dad never used chemicals on his row crops, so I was never exposed to the new modern farming or gardening. I still remember that garden on top of the hill by the barn where Dad would every spring plow it up for Mom to rake and smooth out the soil for planting. It was where I lit the fire under the wire fence and burned the railroad tie corner post right out of the ground. Yeah, well, I’d watched Mom and Dad burn piles of dried weeds before so I just wanted to help them out. I was probably about 6 or 7 when that happened. It’s a wonder my parents survived my childhood. I had so many brainy ideas that got totally out of control.

Another author caught my eye from the library reading in the early ’80s. Mel Bartholomew wrote a book called “Square Foot Gardening” and wooed me into reading it several times cover to cover. It was a totally new concept from row crops. The combination of Ruth Stout’s method and Mel Bartholomew’s method set me on a course that changed my thinking about gardening. Even to this day my thoughts are always toward new and better plant growing concepts.

Upon retirement five years ago, the farming genetic seeds of many generations of soil tilling ancestors began to sprout. One resurrected raised bed from a gardening attempt of practically a decade before was rejuvenated and nursed back to production. The next year, two more raised beds were built. Today a total of four beds reside in the backyard. Over the course of three years, a rain catch automatic watering system was built and perfected. The desire to garden continued to grow and the backyard wasn’t big enough to satisfy the need for produce.

Three years ago, a discovery was made of a city website that listed properties the city had foreclosed upon. Through a long process I found and became a land owner. The vacant lot was filled with trash from neighborhood dumping, nettle weeds, wild invasive flowers, fallen trees, scrub brush, and saplings. It took almost two years to bring the wild untamed land under some semblance of control. It’s still a long way from being a beautiful Garden of Eden but I’m working on it. So now I own another property and am contemplating purchasing another.

This is a lot of words to get back to the question. Why do I garden? Is it to save money? Is it to become more self sufficient? Is it to have more healthy food? Any one of these would be a good reason to garden but after some soul searching none of these came to the surface. What then drives me to keep expanding my gardens? I just have this deep-rooted desire to till the soil and grow things. It has nothing to do with the harvest or the preserving but the growing and finding better ways to accomplish that. It surprised me to come to that conclusion. I will say that I do have some plans to save some of the harvest and preserve it but most of the collected harvest will be given away to family, friends, or shelters.

The plans for 2015 are plenty big and my adrenalin is flowing. Seed starting will begin in February. Oh, yeah, 34 days and counting.

Here’s hoping for an awesome new year for everyone.

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