Why do I garden?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. I’ve also wondered why so many people do not garden. I can’t speak to that one, but I can certainly share what I enjoy about caring for plants.
Gardening is my art
After many years in the Nevada desert at Burning Man, I have come to learn that everyone is creative. There are no exceptions. Some people are more connected to their art than others, but there are no uncreative people. Gardening gives me an outlet for my creativity.
I look at a space and see where it could be made better, more productive, or nicer to look at. Sometimes that means adding plants and other times it means taking them away. The tabula rasa of a traditional lawn provides the canvas for a massive artichoke plant that disappears each July, a slow and steady pairing of pineapple guava and dwarf pomegranate, each with their spring blossoms and fruitful harvests. A simple backyard of lawn and shrubs can be transformed into a miniature forest of fruit and nut trees, raised beds, and a surprising amount of delicious homegrown food. That is my art. Of course, plants are always growing and changing, so what worked before might not work later on. That’s okay. I believe that the transitory nature of plants is one of the appeals of gardening
In the garden, things are always changing. And sometimes, things don’t work out. Not enough sun, too much water, compacted soil, many things can go wrong but that’s okay, too. There’s always next year. And the year after that. Gardening gives me a chance to learn from my mistakes and try new things.
Gardening is good for me
Gardening is good for me physically and mentally. Working the soil improves mood. So does being outside and surrounded by nature. The bending, lifting, digging and carrying that come with gardening help me stay active and strong. I think the regular reminder of the importance of water to plant life reminds me to stay hydrated, as well. All that vitamin D is good, too, as long as I remember to wear a hat and sunscreen.
Gardening reminds me that things worth having always take time, effort, and patience. And nurturing all those plants feels good, and they never criticize or judge me.
Gardening builds community
Gifts to friends, family, and neighbors from the home garden strengthen those bonds. Talking about gardening successes and failures brings us closer together. Sharing a harvest with those less fortunate eases everyone’s burdens. We are a social, tribal species and we are at our best when we work together toward common goals. The modern world doesn’t offer as many opportunities for that sort of work. Many people spend much of each day looking at a computer screen during the day and a TV screen at night. Gardening helps us stay connected.
Gardening is good for the world
Foods shipped from around the world are costly in many ways, even when they are cheaper than locally grown produce. Plants grown for storage and shipping are often less flavorful than those grown at home. And all the fossil fuels used to ship and transport those fruits and vegetables can’t be good for the air we breathe.
Gardening puts me in control, sort of
To be honest, one of the things I love about gardening is the sense of control it gives me. I can prune a tree into any shape I want. I can plant a row of rainbow-colored flowers if I so choose. I can try every type of radish in existence if I feel so inclined. In a world that grows ever more complicated and confusing with too many features and not enough reliable functionalities, gardening provides me with a sense of being in control, even if that feeling is fleeting and mostly inaccurate.
When I garden, I eat better, sleep better, and feel better. Gardening makes me a better version of myself.
Why do you garden?
Kate Russell, writer, gardener, and so much more.