People I know casually are often surprised when they find out I love to garden. Invariably when they find out I’m a gardener, I get one of two responses. I wish I had the time and the space to garden, or I would love to have a small garden of my own, but I know nothing about gardening and I’m afraid any money I spent on plants would be wasted when I killed them. Others ask how I find the time or energy to garden and wonder how I manage it. Why go to all the work of gardening when you can buy your produce at the grocery or local farmers market? While I agree that sometimes it is much easier to go to the grocery or farmers market to buy what you need, neither is quite as satisfying as growing something yourself. Gardening is very much like a home improvement project that you’ve decided to tackle on your own instead of hiring a contractor. It can also add benefits to your home and your health.
While I still support my local growers by shopping at the farmers market in the late spring and summer, and I buy my meats from a local butcher, I also grow many of my own vegetables myself. To be honest, I don’t find gardening work because I love it. From the moment I was able to have my own apartment in college, I’ve had something I’ve started growing outside as soon as the weather got warm enough. I started with pots and container gardening. I didn’t remember all of what my parents and grandparents tried to teach me about gardening as a child. I did remember the satisfaction they had in working in the soil and picking food right out of their own backyard though. It was an urge that I felt once I had space of my own and I’ve never looked back.
One thing I’ve learned over the years about gardening is there are many different ways to do it. Having house plants is one simple way you can be a gardener and it doesn’t require a lot of space. Keeping an African violet in your kitchen window, growing a Christmas cactus, or even putting together a small terrarium can be fun and relatively easy. Plus having indoor plants can improve the air quality in your home. Container gardening on a small deck, balcony, or patio is another way to garden. Containers with flowers or herbs can improve the equity in your home or brighten your apartment by adding beauty to your landscape. If you live in an area with poor soil, or don’t have the space or money to keep a tiller, you can put together a box and have a raised bed garden. Don't let lack of know-how stop you either. There are plenty of resources both on the web, with state universities, or with a local extension office that can help you with information on garden projects. Many of these resources are free or only charge a moderate fee. Another source on learning how to grow things is local nurseries and home improvement centers. Many offer weekend classes for adults or parents and children on fun, family gardening projects. Support local nurseries and explore fun activities that you can do with your kids that involve plants and growing things. It will make you feel good about yourself, help the environment, and give your kids an appreciation for the earth and nature. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself if your first efforts in gardening fail. Being a gardener means accepting the fact that sometimes your garden won’t thrive and your plants may die. Learning a new thing involves stamina, and practice, and gardening is no different. You have to keep trying in order to get better at it.
Nothing tastes better than food you grew in your own garden. You know when you eat it exactly where it came from and how it was grown. And few flowers look prettier than those you bought and potted yourself. So this spring take a risk, even if you start small, give growing something a try.