"We’re gonna’ cut back next year, Son . . . we’re just not gonna’ grow so much. We don’t even need it anymore." How many times have I heard my Dad say those words? And yet each year sees basically the same size garden. Even at age 82, my parents keep gardening with fervor. But why? Why do they do it? Here’s why:
1) Gardening for safe, fresh, tasty food. Other than your local farmer’s market, it’s tough to get fresh, vine-ripened, safe and really tasty vegetables unless you grow them yourself. Growing your own lets you have the choice of the particular varieties, colors and even the harvest stage of the vegetables you want. And, if you’re careful, you can save money in the process. It’s estimated that during World War II over 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens which produced approximately 40 percent of the fresh vegetables in the U.S. Many are returning to those roots in 2009.
2) Garden for exercise. Gardening gets people off the couch and doing at least moderately physically active. Did you know senior citizens watch more hours of television each week than any other age group? They are the most sedentary sector of the population. That’s not good. Gardening has been shown to burn up to 300 calories per hour for women and almost 400 for men. While not nearly as effective as a consistent structured exercise program, gardening does provide some true health benefits.
3) Gardening for stress relief. High stress is a fact of life in our fast-paced world. Gardens give people an outlet . . . a way to relax and unwind . . . or as Baloo the Bear said in The Jungle Book, to "fall apart in my backyard!" Gardening gives the mind a real break from the rat race, and even sometimes a break from the air conditioner!
4) Gardening lets you be creative. Plant what you want. Use the colors you like with your flowers. Design a garden that reflects your personality! Grow things in containers no one else ever dreamed of using. It’s your chance to dance.
5) Garden to help others. Gardening is a great way to share with friends and family. It’s a great source for gifts to give, and it even stimulates opportunities to meet new friends and to converse with others. Besides all that, there are social groups based upon gardening like Master Gardeners, garden clubs, plant organizations and even Internet blogs and websites you can share in.
6) Garden to compete. Some people enjoy having the first tomatoes in town. Others like to compete in flower shows or even at the county fair. Gardening opens the door for competition with other growers.
7) Garden to pass along knowledge and joy. Most gardeners don’t sit around pondering all of the reasons they choose to garden. They just garden. But if they did, they’d realize gardening gives them the opportunity to do something that lifts them up spiritually and emotionally. It allows them to see miracles unfold in nature. Gardening lets us nurture, gives us achievement, and promotes inner peace and personal serenity. Gardening also allows us to pass these things on to our friends and family, and to introduce these wonders to the youngsters we love.
8) Gardening for a plethora of reasons! I think we could go on and on about how gardening gets us fresh air, vitamin D from the sun, a chance to wear our favorite hat, etc.
Surely we’ve realized by now that gardening deserves its place no matter how smart, how cute, how modern, how busy or how rich we become. Wouldn’t you agree? I sure do.
Jerry A. Chenault is an Urban Regional Extension Agent.