What Does Gardening Mean To You?

Garlic Sprout PicturesWe have spoke about doing this little article for a while… we just were trying to find the time.  Guess what… we found it.  It was right where we left it.  Our idea was to ask various online gardeners (that sound weird, like we are all making digital gardens with pixelated fruits and veggies… worrying if we had enough RAM to finish the weeding, fighting the latest hornworm virus)…

What Does Gardening Mean To You?

Then we would gather those answers, share them with our peeps & tweeps and also showcase a few of our fellow garden bloggers.  Our even wider vision is to get our other readers (and the people we showcase’s readers) to join in on the “fun” and tell what gardening means to them as well.

What we will do is introduce each person and give their answers, then you can leave our site and view the other sites and forget all about us.  😉  Just kidding.  We hope.  If you leave, we are going to go pee in your gardens… because that is how we deal with things.  With pee.  I think we have spoke about this before.  Which makes it the truth on the internet. 

Our first gardener (and this is only based on who sent it in first – because that is what means the most to us… that meant we didn’t have to bug this person 24/7… ahem… like some other people – **cough** Shibaguyz  **cough** – haha) is Dava @ Smiling Tree.  She is located in Chattanooga, TN and new to the gardening blog game.  I asked everyone a couple questions along with the big question and one was location… the other – favorite plant.  Do you know how hard it is to narrow down all your plants to one favorite – apparently… pretty hard.  Dava is a fan of chamomile – at least for the moment.  We asked everything, including Dava…

What Does Gardening Mean To You?

Aside from offering a safe haven from the ubiquitous storm of food safety issues, gardening provides other rewards, some of them deeply emotional.  Although my family is full of gardeners, I haven’t been very successful but yet continue year after year to plant and reap at least a little produce.  More than once I have questioned the sanity of spending the money for seeds and plants then later dealing with the disappointment–not to mention the guilt–that always accompanies the drying up and weed infestation that occurs in late July or early August.  Why?  I ask myself year after year, why do you waste money and time on this?  The answer is complicated.
My grandmother was a gardener.  Not the sweet-old-lady-in-a-big-hat sort of gardener, but a you-better-hoe-those-weeds-if-you-want-to-eat sort of gardener.  Every year, even when she no longer had to, she planted a huge garden.  Sometimes she sold part of her produce, she gave away a significant portion of her harvest and she always preserved as much as possible.  The best dish on Thanksgiving was her green beans, still tasting like summer in November.  Besides green beans, she grew tomatoes (of course!), okra, squash, cabbage, corn, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers…at least a 1/2 acre garden, every single summer.  A year or so after she passed away, we found a case of her soup mix in pint jars.  She had grown everything in it!  Having that soup was a small miracle.
Regrettably I didn’t spend anywhere close to enough time working with my grandmother in the garden.  But every spring, when I turn the dirt in my pitifully small raised beds I feel as if I am spending time with her.  The smell of the dirt recalls her smile, the weight of a ripe tomato vividly produces a memory of the day she made me try a peanut butter and tomato sandwich–which is remarkably delicious, especially if the tomato is still warm from the sun.  Especially when it is so hot I can barely stand it; that was her favorite time and it was only very late in life she began working outside in the early mornings and later in the evenings.
Growing a little vegetable garden is great for health reasons.  You are outside moving around in the sunshine, you know exactly how your food is produced, it is as fresh as possible, you are likely to eat more vegetables if you grow them.  There is something spiritually appealing about nurturing your food, too.  And, for me at least, there is a serious emotional benefit to growing a few vegetables, even if I do let the weeds take over in August.  Plus, this year (as usual) I am vowing to stay focused and commit some time to my garden every day throughout the entire season.

Our second gardener is Deb (or Aunt Deb if your family), a Texas gardener who has definitely taught us a thing or two.  You can find her over at Blogspot.  She looks like she (because we stalk her online) grows some killer crops… seriously – look at the Swiss Chard.  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  That is a child being sucked in the roots of that monster.  Her favorite plant… a toss-up between the Hardy Hibiscus & Heirloom Tomatoes.  Both of which, we have seen pictures of  and they look awesome.  Deb had this to say about what gardening meant to her:

I learned to garden as a child from my grandfather, Daddy Jake, he taught me to grow vegetables. He and my grandmother lived on a ranch in central Texas and I visited during school vacations and summer breaks. Along with teaching me to ride a horse and work cattle, he also showed me how to grow food. He didn’t take me out in the garden and formally teach me to plant a potato or anything. He just let me hang out with him and absorb what he was doing. It stuck. Each year, when I start my early spring garden, I think of him. Obviously, at this time of year, he is on my mind and in my heart. Because of his influence, I have tended some sort of plant or plants for thirty-three years.

Fourteen years ago, I began my own family. My boys have been exposed to gardening from the moment the weather was pretty enough to take them outside after they were born. Two of them could care less about growing plants. They only care about eating the food the plants provide. Yet one really loves growing things. He collects rose mallow and wants to be an arborist. I use my grandfather’s teaching technique; just let him hang out in the garden with me, and he absorbs what feeds his little soul. I trust that someone else will provide the spark and knowledge to awake whatever passion the other two have in them.

This is how I came to garden and how I intend to pass on what little I know. Still, I have not answered the question, “What does gardening mean to me?” For me, gardener is part of my title along with Mrs., mom, daughter, and sister. Just like being a wife, mom, daughter, and sister, I simply cannot stop being a gardener. It is what I am and gardening is what I do.

Next gardener is out of Portland – Megan @ Nestmaker blogs about some of the coolest stuff for you house, and has a self-proclaimed addiction to buying plants and strolling through nurseries (not the baby kind – that would be weird right?).  Constantly finding new plants to love, her favorite plant changes almost daily it seems.  At the moment (or at least at the moment she answered the question, it might have changed by now), she is “staring at the ground, hoping my pinellia cordata returns this year”.  She continues… “It’s one of the more unusual plants I picked up last year, and it’s tiny – so you’d have to really pay attention to notice it.”  Check it

She answered the big question as follows…

This is a tough question to answer without being all sappy.  There are a lot of good, logical reasons to garden.  It’s better for the environment than maintaining a lawn.  It’s healthier and cheaper (I don’t know if I believe that with my nursery bills) and more delicious to grow your own food.  It improves property values.  My grandmother gardened with from sun up to sun down, planting petunias in her neighbors’ yards when hers was full, but that’s not my style (petunias that is, I do sometimes sneak stuff in the neighbors’ yard). 

I don’t do it for any of those reasons.  Here’s the sappy part.  I just do it because I’m in love with it.  Shopping for plants is that feeling of new infatuation.  When I’m at a nursery, and I see some plant I don’t have, and it has one of those qualities that gets me all excited, extra large leaves, odd black flowers, whatever, my heart actually pounds, I get butterflies in my stomach.

When I first started out, I always bought way too much at once.  I had to carve out a new section of lawn every time I planted something new.  It was completely overwhelming and I hated the actual work part of it.  I let hundreds of dollars worth of plants die because I never got around to planting.  After a while though, I found a rhythm in even the most tedious tasks, cutting down and digging out blackberry bushes or deadheading.  I realized I started to look forward to my time in the yard.  Now, if I’m heading outside with my Felco secateurs and a shovel, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  There’s no better way to clear your head than to go out in the yard and putter.  I don’t think I do it because my grandmother did, but I have to admit, I am following in her footsteps.

The last of the gardeners (besides ourselves) is a duo out of Seattle, West Seattle to be exact.  On a hilltop over-looking the rest of the city and a beautiful ridge – where they gaze upon neighboring islands and the Olympic Mountain.  I can’t make this stuff up people.  Sounds like an intro to some fairytail or something.  Throw a few “enchanteds” and “whimsicals” in there and you got one. 

In a far off land, atop a hill – over-looking the enchanted kingdom of Seattle…

Hahaha – they know we are joking, the Shibaguyz (Shannon & Jason) are a great read, you can check them out here.  They have great information and take lots of pics in general – so it never gets boring.  Check this article about small space gardening – which they are freakin’ pros at.  When asked what their favorite plant/veg was…

“Wow… freakin’ everything man!”

We believe them, because we are the same way – addicted.  Call Intervention.  We forced them to narrow it down, they said that their overwinter crops have been fun to watch, and “forced greens” – I will save that for their article, when they get it put together.  They answered the big question…

“What does gardening mean to us?”   *sheesh*  Sounds like a homework assignment akin to “what I did on my summer vacation.”  LOL  Kidding… kinda…  heehehehe…

Okay, seriously (right).  Both of us grew up gardening.  In Wyoming, Jason’s mom had the typical backyard garden with some fresh veggies for their meals.  I grew up on a big ol’ cattle farm in Ohio.  We have a HUGE garden that supplied us with most of our produce for the year.  We canned and froze all during the growing season and never would have thought of buying produce from the store other than bananas and oranges.

With that in our blood, as soon as we bought our first home, we immediately started thinking about getting some food in the ground.  We did not, however, follow our own advice and start small.  We started with a row of peas, then got all excited about how well they did.  Next thing you know, we’ve dug up the entire area around our patio and purchased a dozen or so pots.  Every square inch of our outdoor space was crammed with edibles.  Why??

1. The food tastes better.
2. We know where the food comes.
3. We know there were no chemicals used on our food.
4. We can eat right out of our back yard without giving money to the giant corporate food chains.
5. We know the food is SAFE!

On a deeper level, there is also the immense satisfaction that we know we are taking care of our food needs without relying on the mega-monster that is the current food production chain.  Our food is safe and we didn’t have to irradiate it to make it edible.  Also, we know if (when) the whole food supply chain comes to a screeching halt, we can take care of ourselves.  Being self-reliant when it comes to our food supply is something we are pretty proud of.  It’s a big accomplishment for two urbanites.

Finally, having our garden has meant a new level to our relationship.  Having completely different work schedules, we hardly ever see each other other than passing in the night (or morning when Jason leaves for work and I’m still passed out).  Our weekends in the garden have given us so much more quality time together than we ever had before.  There is something about working together on such an important project that really gave us a bigger sense of ourselves and our relationship.  Those weekend mornings puttering around in the garden with fresh bread, some fromage blanc, prosecco and public radio playing in the background are memories that have become an eternal part of our relationship.

One more point here of the meaning of gardening.  Often while we are in the garden, Jason and I tell stories of gardening and cooking with our mothers, grandmothers and great-aunts.  Those stories are part of an oral tradition which brings us closer to those people than just looking at some photos.  Feeling like we are a part of that long history of gardeners and creators before us is a powerful feeling.  Drawing on their energies and putting that back into the Earth is an experience I wouldn’t give up for anything.  All of the great gardeners in my life have passed on into the Universe and this one act of working the soil and sharing their stories brings their energy back to my side.  In the end, it is a profound and energizing experience.

So that leaves us with only… well… us left.  We are located in Texas, Zone 7b – and we have the coolest website in all the earth.  The one your on right now.  Crazy huh.  Go figure.  Shala loves Hibiscuses of any kind really.  Hard for her to walk past in a nursery.  She says it makes her think of Hawaii and that is one of her favorite places on the planet.  I (James) am a fan of pretty much any kind of pepper there is.  I like hot ones the most, but it is always awesome to see lil pepper butts coming out under those blooms.   We asked ourselves the question (weird huh?)…

I (James) remember my Grandpa having strawberries when I was younger… grapes, apricots… different stuff.  I wouldn’t say it is my motivation or my meaning of gardening – but I do remember, so perhaps it is passed down in a way.  Really things changed when Shala & I started gardening on what gardening meant for me.  I’m sure when we first started I thought it was for old people or women.  I thought it wasn’t “cool”. 

But the first time I saw something pop up, or the work that we put into something really pay off… my view of gardening really changed.  Like many have said before – the time we would end up spending together meant more and more for me.  It was not just the end result – it was the part to get to the end result that meant the most to us.  Whether it was just screwin’ around in the garden weeding and digging or planning things out in the off-season… it was time we had together.  Time that no one was a part of besides ourselves.  OUR time.

Of course, just like everyone else – we love the fact that we can control any & everything that goes into our plants.  No pesticides, no toxins… none of that crap.  We can pick things from the vine exactly when we wanted – fresh, perfect veggies.  That means a lot to us, becaus there are times we will buy veggies and they will go bad in our fridge waiting for us to eat – now we let them stay on the vine until we are ready to eat.

It seems like there is so much to learn in terms of gardening.  Everyone is so helpful, fellow gardeners, people who run nurseries – everyone in general.  That is something we have loved about it.  Now that we have some time under our belt we like to help others as we were helped in the beginning.  Gardening has a real sense of community. 

What does gardening mean to us – it means, time spent doing what we love, with who we love and producing veggies without the risk of all bad stuff finding its way in.  It means community.  It means emailing people on the weekend about partipating in a article about “what does gardening mean” and getting overwhelmed with responses the following week.  It is about friends, family & tradition.  It is about gardening.  If that makes sense.

So there you have it.  We gathered all the goods in one place.  We would love to hear what gardening means to you – please leave your comments on this blog post or post it yourself and link it up.  Whatever you feel the urge to do – do it.  This has been a fantastic experience and I hope those involved can appreciate everyone’s answers.  Maybe you will make a few more gardening friends if you have a chance to check out other blogs linked today – or maybe you will find some inner-gardener that you never knew existed and nuture it to an outer-gardener.

6 thoughts on “What Does Gardening Mean To You?”

  1. This was a fantastic idea and thanks for allowing me to participate. I enjoyed reading everyone’s answers and checking out websites.

  2. What a great idea for a post. I love seeing what is behind everyone else’s motivation. It’s fun to see how we are all connected in some way. Thanks for letting me take part.

  3. Pingback: In other news - nest maker

  4. Hey, thanks for interviewing some of my favorite virtual (real) gardeners. We all tend to micro-focus on the plant du jour or a specific joy or problem we\’re having, so hearing the over-arching reasons people garden and what they get out of it are really cool. Hibiscus and peppers, a nice combo. Do you dry the flowers and make Jamaica, my favorite drink on earth?

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