3.16.2018

Why You Should Start A Garden Today


(photo by Markus Spiske)

Gardening is one of those things I never took much interest in. People always spoke of it like it was the most difficult hobby to have. And the thought of spending my summers bent over, nails filled with dirt, never really appealed to me. But now that I'm so much older and so much wiser (haha), I've really started to see the value and the art of gardening. Gardening has brought me more joy than I ever thought it would. And with spring now in the air, I've been getting so excited to get my plants in the ground.
But despite all that, vegetable gardens aren't quite as popular as they used to be. It was only a in the last century that America came together to start victory gardens. In World War II, there was a need across the country, food was rationed, and so people acted accordingly. Victory gardens were a way to help with the war effort, and it's estimated that up to 40% of the food consumed in the states at the time was from backyard vegetable gardens. I mean, that's a lot, especially compared to now.
But in the 21st century, there seems to be no shortage of good food, and no real need to grow our own. Why grow your own vegetables when grocery store aisles are lined with seemingly fresh produce?
And while I'm not saying that I think we need another world war to force people into growing their own food again, I still believe there's a whole lot of wisdom and love that goes into a backyard vegetable garden.



Why should we garden?
There's practical reasons and sentimental reasons, and pretty much everything in-between.

The benefit of exercise. 
You can't garden sitting down. It's just that simple. Gardening requires weeding, mulching, planting, tilling, which are all low-level forms of exercise and movement. It's not difficult work, but your body will thank you in the long run.

You get loads of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is a real problem in the West.  Conventional wisdom has taught us to be afraid of the sun, and so we shy away from staying in the sun for too long. But that's come at a cost. So anything that helps us to get more of "the sun vitamin" is probably a good thing.

Dirt is good for you.
In our culture we're a tad obsessed with being sanitary. Germs must be destroyed at all costs and hand sanitizer rules supreme. But not all bacteria is bad, and dirt isn't necessarily dirty. And the rise in autoimmune and gut issues might be a unintended result of a super sanitary society. So get some dirt under your fingernails, and don't be afraid to those carrots straight from the ground, raw and still a little bit dirty.

We all need to get outside more.
I swear, even just being outdoors for 10 minutes is therapeutic. Our bodies were never designed to be stuck indoors, under fluorescent lights, for 16 hours a day. It's unnatural. Gardening is a great way to get back to a more primal way of interacting with the earth. Many gardeners say that working in the garden is a way to destress and detoxify. And it's just really hard to be outside on a beautiful day, and not feel great.

The food, duh.
There's really nothing quite like planting something in good faith and, after a lot of time and nurturing, reaping the benefits. Growing your own food is just exciting and such a rewarding experience. (And homegrown produce usually tastes better, too.) But there's just something about being a little more self-sufficient that fills you up inside.

How do I start?
It doesn't take a whole lot to start a garden, you just have to start! Here's how:

1. Make a plan. Figure out what you want in a garden. Do you want to start out small? How much space do you have for planting? Do you want to grow several herbs or have just a small tomato plant? Write out what everything. Keep in mind that some plants need more sun and water than others, and plan accordingly. And, say you're really excited about growing your own potatoes? Do a little research on how to best care for potatoes specifically.
2. Find your growing zone. Depending on where you live, you should germinate and plant your seeds at different times of the year. Just put in your zip code here, and you should find out the best dates for planting in your area!
3. Buys seeds. Look for a company that adheres to the Safe Seed pledge, a privately assembled stamp of approval that promises non-GMO seeds. "The Safe Seed Pledge was created in 1999 when High Mowing Organic Seeds guided a coalition of 9 other seed companies in drafting a statement about the signers' stance on genetic engineering. To date the Pledge has been signed by over 370 seed companies worldwide. In signing the Safe Seed Pledge we affirm our commitment to non-GMO (genetically modified organism) seed." (source)
And if you wanna get real fancy, keep an eye out for Heirloom varieties (seeds that have been passed down generations from a plant at least 50 years).
4. Plant and watch 'em grow! Be sure to keep the seeds constantly moist while they're germinating, but from there each individual seed packet will give you instructions on how to do the rest.
5. Don't get discouraged. Like anything worthwhile in life, gardening takes practice. Worms might eat some of your cabbage, and you might overwater and underwater your plants some days. But don't lose heart! Every year you'll learn something new, and ever new season you'll be a better gardener for it. It's all part of the process.

Here's also some great posts on the subject: How to start a gardenTips on starting a vegetable garden, and Gardening for beginners. And if you're planning on getting your hands dirty with gardening, it'd be a great companion project to start a compost and get some free fertilizer while you're at it!

So get started! Whether it's a huge vegetable garden, a few backyard perennials, or even just a windowsill herb planter. There's no start that's too small.

Here's to exercising our green thumbs!
Mel
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