My youngest daughter holding radishes

Why garden?

Why do you want to garden?

People plunge their hands into the soil for a variety of reasons. Are you following in your grandmother, grandfather, or parents’ footsteps? Did your mother ever build a sunflower house just for you, or did your father let you play in the garden next to him?

Then, again, maybe you don’t have a mentor. If not, I want to help. My passion for gardening knows no season. Spring is nearly here, and all I can think about are seeds. From favorite flowers that make up the bulk of my garden and new varieties of vegetables I want to try, each day is an adventure. Even though it’s winter, on those days that it’s warmish and sunny, I’m outside cutting back perennials and adding more shredded leaves to the soil. Soon, I’ll be starting seeds indoors and sowing cold crops outside too.

My joy is complete on that first, warm spring day when the Earth is green and growing. It is as close to heaven as I’ll get during my lifetime. Spring is how I know God loves us.

Why garden? A beautiful spring day in the garden is as close to heaven as we can get.

A beautiful spring day in the garden is as close to heaven as we can get.

I want to pass on this essential craft to you. Yes, gardening is a craft. It’s not magic. The magic comes after you plant seeds in warm soil, but there are no secret formulas involving household products that make us successful. Good, old-fashioned compost improves soil and makes magic on its own.

If I pass on my hope and knowledge to you, maybe you’ll pass it onto your children too. I sometimes fear we’re coming to a time when no one, except Big Ag will grow anything. My concern is one reason I wrote The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. Writing books doesn’t make much money, but it is satisfying to talk to so many people who love, or want to love gardening too.

There are zinnias hiding behind those sunflowers in the vegetable garden.

Building a sunflower house isn’t hard, and it makes memories that last forever.

I’ve done my best to transfer my love of growing things to my children. They are young–most are in their 20s–and just starting out, so only time will tell if I’ve been successful. I built Megan a sunflower house when she was small. She still talks about it, and I know, one day, she’ll build one with her children when she has them. We built it before I began taking photos and blogging, but we still have our precious memories of that summer. Bear and I planted and harvested radishes, and she loves radishes to this day. Brennan played with his Tonka trucks making construction sites in a bare are of the garden as I planted nearby. He doesn’t garden yet, but he knows how because he teases me about it all the time.

The view of the potager from the other side. I'm standing next to the greenhouse and facing south.

The potager (kitchen garden) in June.

It’s important to pass down our love for soil and sunshine to our children because they don’t get outside as often as children once did. Worries over child predators and use of the Internet have changed childhood forever. Do you remember playing outside all day and listening for your mother to call you home for supper? I do. Each day was a grand adventure filled with bike riding, scraped knees and dirt. Gardening is as close as our children and grandchildren will get to that feeling of freedom and earthly joy. Plus, they’ll get more vitamin D if they get outside. So will you.

Another view of the potager in spring.

Another view of the potager in spring.

Here are some other reasons why I think people start gardening.

  • To save money. In the long run, gardening will save you money. However, you will have startup costs like purchasing seeds, containers, building materials for raised beds, purchasing manure or other organic fertilizers and potting soil or soil. Yes, people who live with terrible buy it and burm it up for raised beds. You may also need to rent, buy or borrow equipment to help you break up your native soil. So, while you may garden to save money, know that you will need to purchase some things to get started. To minimize expenses, trying buying tools with friends, or borrow them from a neighbor. Be sure to return the items in better condition than you found them. It will make you friends with your neighbor for life. As a friend, you can also “borrow” his/her knowledge if he/she is a gardener too. There’s nothing like the knowledge from someone who grows in your own climate and conditions. Also, join a seed swap and trade seeds with others. It’s another great way to be part of the community.
'Park's Whopper Improved' tomato was a determinate variety that kept me in tomatoes all summer.

‘Park’s Whopper Improved’ tomato was a determinate variety that keeps me in tomatoes all summer.

  • Food, glorious food. Vegetable gardeners tend to be foodies. I know I’m one. One reason we grow our own vegetables is to have the very best ingredients. However, don’t feel like you have to grow everything you see in the supermarket. Different plants have different seasons. You can still go to a great grocery store and find many items, including organic produce, that may be too hard to grow in your area. Certain foods like lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, eggplant and many herbs are the best you’ve ever eaten when grown right outside your back door. That’s why I line my kitchen garden beds with herbs. I can step outside and cut some for supper. There is nothing like it, and I feel so self-sufficient when I do. Herbs are easy to grow too.
Variegated culinary sage is a perennial herb in my climate.

Variegated culinary sage is a perennial herb in my climate.

  • Natural Beauty. My surroundings are as important to me as the air I breathe, so I often choose vegetables, fruit and flowers simply for beauty’s sake. Bill loves blueberries so I grow them in containers outside on our back deck. In fact, I have twenty-three containers of various plants at last count. Some are vegetables. Others contain roses and tropical plants to create an oasis that softens the sounds and sights of my closest neighbor.
My blueberries growing in containers.

My blueberries growing in containers.

  • Peace of Mind. Our Earth is a fragile ecosystem, and anything we can do to make the planet better is one of the best reasons to garden. By the very things we choose to grow, and how we grow them, we can definitely help our planet and pollinators. If you’re worried about the agriculture system, growing your own food is one way to lessen the impact of genetically modified produce and chemicals in what you eat. Our ecosystem is delicately balanced, and the animals and insects that call your garden home will bless you everyday as they go to work. You help the bees, hoverflies and other insects by providing them with nectar, and they help you by visiting your plants and pollinating them. It’s a beautiful thing.
Bumblebee on Echinacea purpurea.

Bumblebee on Echinacea purpurea.

  • Unplug and go outside. Finally, we should all just unplug and spend some time outside breathing fresh air. Unplug and go outside is the motto of the U.S. Forest Service. I spend a lot of time in front of my computer screen, and I bet you do too. Fresh air, exercise and even dirt are good for us. Soil has good bacteria that makes us feel good. It’s true! A strain of bacteria in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which elevates mood and decreases anxiety.
  • So those are some of the reasons why I think people garden. Hands in the soil and sunshine on our hair are good reasons too. I’d love to hear why you like to garden. I’ve also linked to some of my previous posts on starting seeds and other early garden chores for you to find more easily. Have a glorious Sunday my friends!

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    51 comments on “Why garden?

    1. Robin Ruff Leja

      I weep for the indoor generation. Children should get dirty. They should breathe clean air, and explore the yard. I’m trying to lead my grandchildren in this direction with the gifts I give them. There are often child sized garden tools, and butterfly nets, and bug catching cages. My son already has a small vegetable garden, and his wife grows lovely flowers, so I know there has been some success there. My daughter is still a single apartment dweller, but maybe someday…..

    2. Pam's English Garden

      Love this posting, Dee. Gardening is part of my English heritage — that’s why I began digging in the Pennsylvania dirt when I retired. But gardening became more to me over the years. Now I garden for all the reasons you give and more. By gardening and sharing my skills I feel, in my small way, I am making a valuable contribution in this world. P.x

      1. fanofpawleys

        I loved this posting as well. Your blog is great! My ‘why’ for gardening satisfies my soul. It is my ‘yoga’ if you will. I even like to weed. You gave a wonderful ‘eye’ into Spring. I love being outside and planting and pruning and adding new day lilies (like I need more) That is another fun thing about gardening is trying to resist the new plants and bulbs and finding a place for them.

    3. Bruce Batman

      Great article, and very timely! Both sets of grandparents gardened, as did my parents. I suppose it’s in my genes! Gardening takes away the stress of the world. I wish I could be outside all year long!

      1. Dee Nash

        Oh me too Bruce. Wouldn’t that be heaven?

    4. Wendy Lu

      Hi Dee! I’m a new followers of yours – it’s nice to e-meet you 🙂 This is a wonderful post. I’ve never had a green thumb like you, but I *have* experienced joy in helping plants grow. When I was in 4th grade, all of the students in my class got a small corn plant that they could take home and grow in their yards. Mine ended up flourishing into a giant corn stalk with three or four ears! It was pretty awesome. 😀

      Since I live in an apartment with barely a backyard, it’s difficult to grow plants. But I’ve kept orchids and a Christmas cactus before, so maybe I’ll get an indoor plant again…

      Have a great day, Dee!

      1. Dee Nash

        Hi Wendy Lu! Thank you for stopping by and following. I love hearing stories like your corn plant. That must have given you the bug. Do you have a balcony or a patio? If it faces east or west, you could probably grow a few things in containers if you want. My book started out on containers for that very reason. If not, enjoy the photos. Thanks again!

    5. Rose

      A beautiful post, Dee! I always tell people I didn’t really start gardening until I was in my 50’s and my children were grown so that I had time for it. But the truth is, I had a vegetable garden long before that, and for that I have to thank my mother. From as far back as I can remember, I would help my mother in the garden, picking green beans and planting potatoes, then later helping her to can and freeze all the produce that fed us through the winter. I grew up on a farm, but it wasn’t until I started planting more and more flowers that I realized just how much that love of digging in the dirt was in my blood. I missed the boat on getting my own kids out in the garden, but I’m doing my best to transfer this love for growing things and all the creatures in the garden to my grandkids. The three-year-old always asks first thing when he comes to my house to go out and pick ‘matoes:)
      By the way, I wrote a short review of your book for my latest blog post. When I got the book from you in Portland, I had planned to give it to my daughter. But I’m keeping this copy–I only wish I had had it about 10 years ago!

      1. Dee Nash

        Sweet Rose, thank you for giving my book a review. I’m glad you kept that copy. I really am. Aren’t we lucky that blogging made friends of us all? My life is so much richer for it. I loved reading your gardening story. I think dirt always was in my blood too. My parents didn’t really garden. I picked it up from my grandmother. Your grandchildren will get it from you.

    6. novascotiaroots

      Such beautiful sentiment, thank you. I love your comment about Spring being how you know God loves us, may I quote you sometime?! Some of the best moments I share with my daughters are when we are in the garden full of dirt or washing veggies they grew themselves. It is amazing to watch those little hands and hear their developing thought processes. We just started blogging and if nothing else, I love that they will have a living document of our experiences and our thoughts when they are older to share with their children. Thank you for the sunflower house idea as well, I will have to try that!

      1. Dee Nash

        Of course you can quote me! I’d be honored. Thank you. I’m so glad you stopped by and commented. Congratulations on starting to blog. I’ll pop on over and visit. Your words about your daughters made me reminisce about my own children. Thank you.

    7. Anonymous

      Hello Dee! I just found your blog today and have fallen in love! My husband and I purchased an overgrown and neglected lot, and and the house fits the same description, last year. I fell in love with the greenhouse and back yard and hope to begin to make a little progress this spring. The back yard is tiered into three levels, making ‘rooms’ for me to decorate. Just reading your blog made me itchy to go out back and clean a fence row. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

      1. Dee Nash

        There’s nothing like falling in love is there? Thank you for coming by and good luck with your new growing space. It will take some work, but I can’t wait to hear what you’ve done with it.

    8. p o t a g e r

      …because to garden is to breathe….

      1. Dee Nash

        Yes, indeed.

    9. Elizabeth

      Lovely!

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you!

    10. Brandon Coppin

      I love this. My family never had much interest in gardening so I’m really not sure where mine came from! For me it’s about creating a space full of life. A space that changes with the seasons and allows me to excerxise my creative abilities. I love the way different plants grow together and the visual feast of texture, form and color!

      1. Dee Nash

        Brandon, I love this. I am all about the creatures now. Life happens in a garden. Life, death and rebirth. Sometimes, all at once. How lucky we are!

    11. Valerie

      I do it because my grandma, grandpa, and mom did it. Our own greenhouses open in Fall and I can’t wait. We will be raising them here in a few weeks. Gardening makes me happy and is a great place to be to work out your troubles. There is lots of healing to be done in the dirt.

      1. Dee Nash

        Oh Valerie, “There is lots of healing to be done in the dirt.” So true. Thank you for writing that!

    12. Kari Walls

      Dee, I so admire your passion to share the great VALUE of gardening with everyone! I share this desire with you, that more people would step outside and get their hands dirty 🙂 To step out into the healthy, vital sunshine and fresh air and EXPERIENCE the rewards, the joys, the fulfillments and literal “fruits” of their labor in both food and beauty… Yes, LIFE to the soul (as Christina said!). Some more of my favorite rewards of gardening, along with the ones you mentioned, are the feelings I get inside, total inner contentment of truly living how we were DESIGNED to live…hands in the earth, growing life-giving plants and eating and enjoying the bounty of the earth that God created for us to ENJOY and partake in!

      I am blessed to know you and your words of encouragement, insight and passion on gardening have been like kindling to the fire inside of my heart…KEEP on sharing your words, they are very needed in our world right now and are bringing much life to MANY people <3

      1. Dee Nash

        Kari, you’re about to make me cry. Much love, and I hope you’re not too busy to help me next year. We do good work in the garden and in the garden of life. Beautifully said. Hugs!

    13. Kathy Sturr

      More and more gardening fills me with peace and forces me to unplug! It is magic. I try to pass along gardening through blogging. I will be running the children’s program at the Community garden in TI Park again this year. Last year we learned all about bees. This year we are going to learn about companion gardening and growing your own “snacks.” I really enjoy it. Even though I “cheated” and migrated this winter, I cannot wait for Spring and to step foot in my garden. I pictured that perfect Spring day you describe. It is so uplifting and grounding all at the same time.

      1. Dee Nash

        Kathy, I agree with everything you said. It is indeed magic to be so much a part of and an observer of nature. I can’t wait to get out there. Thanks for commenting!

    14. Tamara (Chickadee Gardens)

      Amen to all you posted here, I believe it all with my heart of hearts and hope to pass on some of it myself to future generations as well. No pesticides, people – we don’t need them, we’re all better off without. Why do I garden? I garden to leave the earth a little bit better than how I found it. Lovely post! Gardening IS life, indeed 🙂

      1. Dee Nash

        Ooh Tamara, I wish I’d thought of that sentence, “Gardening is life indeed.” It is. It fills me with joy even as I sweat and toil.

    15. gardenfancyblog

      I’m with anonymouse: I garden to surround myself with beauty. Why does an artist create art? Because she is driven by an inner urge to make art, just as I am driven to make beautiful surroundings, and you are driven to write about a subject on which you have something to say. Thanks for your worthy efforts in spreading the knowledge and love of gardening to younger adults! -Beth

      1. Dee Nash

        I love surrounding myself with beauty, and I completely agree that gardeners are artists. We all have an artist within who wants to break through and create something beautiful. Oh Beth, thank you for your sweet words. I love spreading the good news.

    16. [email protected]

      I bought your book for my 27 yr old niece and her boyfriend last year and they love to veg garden…..I try to pass on my love to them. And I garden for all the reasons you listed here Dee….food, solace, beauty but especially to create a habitat for wildlife now so I can keep more natives going in my area which is mostly grass and a few shrubs. Oh and I love the challenge and how it engages my brain and keeps me young and limber.

      1. Dee Nash

        Donna, thank you for sharing my book with them. I hope they liked it. Thank you also for passing on your wealth of knowledge to everyone. I think bloggers have done so much good for gardening information. We’ve changed the face of the information highway. Yay!

    17. Robin Ripley

      I envy your children’s experience growing up with someone showing them how to garden. My mom had a vegetable garden a couple for of years when I was in jr high school. And my grandfather’s flower garden is still a family legend. But there was no one to show me season after season and year after year what a garden can produce in terms of bounty and beauty. I’m on my own that way. A lot of us are. I hope that blogs like yours can help to fill that gap. Good job, Dee. Hugs. — Robin

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you sweet Robin. You know, we moved away from my grandmother when I was about four years old, and my parents didn’t garden. My dad knew how, but he didn’t like the work involved. He did grow some tomatoes sometimes. I still loved visiting my grandmother and walking through her beautiful garden when we were there in summer. She would let me help her pick food for supper. Those are priceless memories. I hope my children have them too. Now, I’m tearing up. Love ya.

    18. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening

      Like Lisa, I really don’t think about why I garden. It’s just an integral part of who I am. Might as well ask me why I keep breathing! It is my artistic outlet, thinking about combining plants to enhance each other, composing spaces that nurture the soul. Observing and learning and changing the way I do things because of what I learn.

      1. Dee Nash

        Beautifully said dear Kathy. I so get what you’re saying.

    19. Linda B

      Thanks for expressing your love of gardening. It echoes my own.

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you Linda. Have a great Monday.

    20. the blonde gardener

      Your garden is so pretty! I am always amazed how a small, small seed can grow into a plant then turn into food to sustain us. Nature is amazing.

      1. Dee Nash

        I, too, find nature miraculous. It never gets old.

    21. [email protected] Trekker

      I do so love the wonderful warm feeling that comes from the thoughtful design of your garden.

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you so much Charlie. That really touches my heart.

    22. anonymouse

      I garden to create more beauty in the world. I am emphatically interested in ornamental gardening…as opposed to vegetable gardening. (Vegetable gardens can in some respects be beautiful, but that is not their sole or primary purpose.) I think we tend to be far too invested in things that make us money, that we can consume/use, etc., and gardening for the sheer beauty of adding more flowers, or of creating a blaze of fascinating colors, or of sculpting intriguing shapes in the landscape is a too-often-forgotten, irreplaceable and life-affirming act.

      1. Dee Nash

        Amen, Anonymouse, amen.

    23. Lisa at Greenbow

      I don’t even think about the WHY I garden any more. I just have to do it. Even when I say I am not buying another plant, I am getting too stiff to take care of this or that…. I keep going. Can’t help myself. My mother was a big influence on me. I hated gardening while gardening with her because I was the ‘weeder’. ha… I still hate to weed but I also realize it is a good thing to do. You become more intimate with your garden while weeding and the plants do appreciate all you do for them. Garden on…

      1. Dee Nash

        Oh Lisa, I echo your sentiments. I don’t know why I garden now. It’s an obsession. You go girl.

    24. Peggy

      Your garden is so beautiful. I have been looking at garden articles all weekend. I have that spring itch. Wonderful post!

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you so much Peggy. It’s a lot of hard work, but the work is worthy.

    25. Christina

      Wonderful article dee. Thanks for sharing your heart and knowledge with me! You have helped me come a long way over the past few years. Gardening is LIFE! 🙂

      1. Dee Nash

        Oh Christina, that means so much to me. Yes, gardening is life, death and rebirth. Hugs.

    26. indygardener

      What a lovely post, Dee. I think often about why I like to garden. I wonder, too, why some people have no interest in gardening. But I don’t wonder too much about them. I just go out to the garden and snip a flower to bring inside, pull a few beans off the green bean plants and stand there and munch on them as I gaze over at green tomatoes and dream of the day the first one will ripen. Then I know the question for me isn’t “why do I garden”. It is “why wouldn’t I garden?”

      1. Dee Nash

        Thank you so much Carol. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t like gardening. I mean, I know it’s work, but it feels so good to get out there and smell the soil, flowers and fauna. Hugs from Oklahoma!