Everybody knows that gardening is a great pastime. Some might say I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, but I will note that every English murder mystery shows some old couple enjoying a day in their garden, harvesting wonderful bouquets and baskets of veggies. Of course, shortly you learn that one or both of them have been murdered or that, in fact, they are the murderers.
Many people extol the wonders and benefits of gardening. The seed company, Ferry-Morse, hypes them, obviously, in their own self-interest. Let’s look at the myths versus the facts, according to me:
1. Growing food at home is nutritious and yummy!
“It’s your free passport to some wonderfully unexpected flavor adventures!” Right. You’ll get to notice the texture of fresh picked tomatoes because the worms provide some smoothness. Don’t worry about a little dirt on those carrots, that builds your resistance to the chemicals or compost you used to get them to grow.
2. Growing food at home is safe.
“When you grow your food, there are no concerns over contamination at the farm, manufacturing plant, or in the semi that’s hauling the goods along the way.” As noted, there’s no guarantee that your produce is safer than food that has been handled by the pickers, inspected by the growers, FDA, distributors, and retailers, as well as the experience of other consumers. And then, there is the use of all kinds of sharp tools. What could go wrong?
3. Gardening burns calories and is an excellent source of moderate exercise.
“Working in your garden does your heart a ton of good and results in other positive health outcomes … You’re also getting the bonus benefit of aerobic exercise from your enjoyment of gardening as physical activity!” I have to work pretty hard (for me) to turn the garden before planting, but the raised beds make planting, harvesting and weeding easier over time. I’m not sure about the caloric balance, but I should get extra credit for running away after disturbing one of the bees working the flowers.
4. Gardening is a form of horticultural therapy.
“While the physical benefits of gardening are great, therapeutic horticulture is very much a thing, too! … while many will attest that gardening is often a relaxing endeavor, it also provides fertile ground for practicing acceptance. In practicing acceptance, you can reduce stress and anxiety in your life by coming to terms with the things that are out of your control … The more you accept the limits of your control, the more peace of mind you can achieve.”
Sure, plants are calming. They don’t bite (usually), don’t complain, but they will however, disappoint. They wilt and get eaten by bugs or grow poorly or don’t produce or over-produce (I’m looking at you, zucchini!). The perils are legend — sunburn, bug bites, small cuts, sore backs, etc. Acceptance comes hard. Do you wake up at night thinking you can hear the bugs chewing your lettuce?
5. Gardening activities stimulate the mind.
“Gardening is full of experimenting and learning, and, therefore, it comes as no surprise that keeping such a stimulating hobby will continue to improve your mental health.” Yes, watching your tireless planting efforts fail gives you perspective on the rest of your life’s failures. Trying to outwit a bug or bird, much less a weed, keeps your mind stimulated and your ego in check!
6. Gardening can make you (and your kids) feel better about yourself.
“Gardening may also be a great way to boost self-esteem, especially for children and young adults. Gardening allows individuals to witness parallel transformations in the soil and themselves while filling their lungs with fresh air.” Your abject failures in parenting and gardening (see above) let your kids understand that life is not a bowl of cherries, much less a bowl of broccoli! And anyway, they won’t eat the broccoli, no matter how much you try to tell them it tastes just as good as mac and cheese.
7. Gardening is easier than you think!
“Caring for essential kitchen plants and veggies takes just a few minutes daily… You don’t have to trade in your lifestyle for one on some dusty farm, either. All you need for a successful garden is a bit of attention, water, and a few square feet of outdoor space.” On the other hand, that trip to the air-conditioned grocery store is pretty easy and you don’t have to get your hands dirty.
8. Gardening helps in so many other ways.
“Gardening can also create a welcoming sense of community and shared knowledge; it can benefit our ecosystems and improve our living spaces.” Having a neighbor who gardens successfully is a wonderful way to build community, particularly if you can put up with long, tedious tales of their adventures in gardening and the zucchini they leave on your doorstep in the dark of night.
I will say that there is nothing like a fresh ripe tomato from your own garden. It almost makes up for all that zucchini you must try desperately to get rid of. Midnight deposits on porches can be risky, as can taking them to the office and dropping them surreptitiously into your colleagues’ in-boxes. But be inventive!
Truly, all the effort is worth the rewards, and I do enjoy gardening and eating fresh veggies. However, I keep my eyes open at all times for any English murderers that might lurk about.
Ferry-Morse, The 8 Benefits of Growing Your Food and Gardening, June 28, 2022, Million Gardens Movement