What If We Didn’t Garden?


Photo by Juice Flair/Shutterstock

Recent events, mostly those associated with the notorious coronavirus, have impacted life styles from ‘little effect’ to ‘life-altering.’ On either end of the scale, from little to a lot, gardening for many of us has increased in significance.
Talking to a range of gardening friends and associates, a few observations bubbled up through the conversations and ruminations. It was not a big surprise that the ‘final solution’ listed reasons why people DON’T garden. In the event you’re one of those, or are curious about the non-gardeners’ reasons, here are the top 10 from my unofficial research.
• I kill everything I touch
• I’m under a doctor’s care for [fill in the blank] • I’m afraid gardening will hurt my [fill in the blank] • I don’t have any place to plant a garden
• I can’t stand the heat
• I can’t stand the cold
• I can’t stand
• I don’t like to sweat/get dirty/mess up my nails
• I don’t have the time
• Why should I when there’s a store for that?

With the exception of the last reason, when there isn’t always ‘a store for that’, that about summed it up.

While refuting all 10 reasons listed would be too lengthy for this space, under the restrictions and challenges of COVID-19, just a couple of comments from the flip side.

We know getting exercise has been frustrating for many while sheltering at home. Gardening is one way to address the challenge, and as one anonymous person put it, ‘Gardening: Cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes!’ Yes, gardening for most is therapeutic in addition to supplying mild to moderate exercise, bragging rights to the most incredible roses, the assurance that those tomatoes/peppers/okra grown in your back yard are the freshest to be had, plus a few other benefits.

Speaking a universal language, gardening can be done by any culture, age, race, religion, or sex – plants don’t care who they’re dealing with as long as they are cared for.

Speak with your physician before undertaking any activity that could compromise health, including muscle groups, but there are benefits to be had from gardening, both physically and mentally. We can garden doing little more than sprinkling seeds in a small patch of soil, one preferably cleared of weeds and rocks. No small patch of soil? Container gardening has grown (pun intended) over the past several years, and with the increase in number of ‘patio,’ ‘dwarf,’ and even ‘tiny’ hybrids, an amazing number of edible and ornamental plants do beautifully in containers. Observing what creative gardeners have done on rooftops, apartment balconies, and window boxes, there’s no doubt gardening can be done just about anywhere there’s enough sun for flowers to develop into the tomato/pepper/eggplant.

Container of geraniums.

Yes weather conditions impact gardens just as they do humans. But if plants can handle hot, cold, dry, wet and give us food, beauty, and ability to share the bounty, we can adjust too. Garden during the early morning hours to beat the heat. Garden with a buddy if you can, whether a family member, grandchild, or neighbor while observing safe distancing practices. Even with a mask, gardening is an enjoyable exercise and likely safer than visiting a store to purchase the vegetable, herb, or bunch of flowers you’re growing!
“I grew that!” accounts for a lot. So… why don’t you garden?

By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Sallie at leesall@aces.edu.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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