In the Garden:
Upper South
December, 2006
Regional Report

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Even at the darkest time of year, the garden can offer beauty and inspiration. This winterberry holly holds its berries for months.

Why Garden?

At this time of year a certain amount of time is often devoted to reflection and reverie. Given my own mindset at the moment, it was interesting to receive a mailing from the National Garden Bureau -- an organization dedicated to helping gardeners grow flowers and vegetables from seed -- that addressed the issue of why we garden. You may see this published elsewhere, but what it says is important enough to read multiple times and to share with others. Following are some of author Janice Kieft's thoughtful insights.

Cell phones, PDAs and MP3 players have become the tools of our modern lives, but it wasn't that long ago that a shovel, a patch of soil, and a bag of seeds were the only tools needed to provide sustenance and satisfaction. Gardening was part of our daily life. Ask any gardener today why they garden, and you'll get a variety of reasons why it's important to them.

Garden to provide safe, healthful food. Reports of food-borne illnesses and contamination regularly appear in the news. Growing concerns about pesticides in our food supply have led to an increased interest in organic gardening and the availability of locally grown organic produce. Processed foods contain additives that many consumers want to avoid. One solution is to grow as many of your own vegetables and fruits as possible. That way you'll know that the food you're eating is fresh and safe, with fantastic flavor not always found in grocery store produce.

Garden for exercise. Tired of the gym routine? Get a good workout without even thinking about it. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women and almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass with a push mower is like taking a vigorous walk; bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class; while hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting. Adaptive tools help those whose physical limitations prevent some activities. Best of all, you can see immediate results in your garden as your physical health improves.

Garden to add beauty. A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Flowers, herbs, trees, and shrubs all contribute to the enjoyment of the garden, whether you're inside the house or out. The contribution of beauty to our lives may be difficult to measure in any quantifiable way, but only think of what life would be like if you did not see a rose in bloom, or the maple's colorful autumn leaves, or the first daffodil of spring.

Garden to learn. Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. For example, pests provide the opportunity to find out the cause and understand how to keep plants healthy. Moving to a new house provides the opportunity to discover new plants and growing conditions. Besides web sites, magazines, and books, there are many other ways to increase gardening know-how, including seminars and Master Gardener programs.

Garden to make money. For some people gardening is a lifelong hobby. For others, the love of plants might lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center or to starting their own business. A garden can be a source of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and other crops that can be sold at local farmer's markets and roadside stands. An attractive landscape can also increase a home's value by as much as 15 percent, plus it creates interest in the house and property, perhaps making the difference between a potential buyer simply driving by or stopping for a closer look.

Garden to meet people. Gardening is a great way to expand your social circle. Whether it's with someone who lives down the street or halfway around the world on the Internet, gardeners love to talk about plants. Surplus tomatoes, a bouquet of flowers, or an extra plant are gifts to be shared with friends and neighbors. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs, plant societies, and gardening Web sites is an easy way to share information, ask questions, and get involved.

Garden to be creative. Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden's design can reflect a personal sense of style as well as provide a showcase for art and craft projects. For those who always want something new, it's easy to experiment with different plants or change a garden's color scheme every year.

Garden to win. For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off skills. The flower and plant shows put on by garden clubs and societies as well as county and state fairs offer the opportunity to show everyone what you grew. Competitive gardening is fun and interesting to those who like this sort of challenge.

Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections. Gardens and gardening play an important part in our well being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excessive energy. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success, while neighbors and visitors often express their appreciation of those efforts.

On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It's a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food. Tending a garden also contributes not only to improving our own living space but also that of our environment and our planet.

Garden for lasting memories. Yards that once grew gardens have been replaced with hot tubs and driveways. Today's kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their moms or tasting the sweetness of a just-picked cherry tomato. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, even if the garden is a single container or a small spot in the yard. A garden can also provide a beautiful way to remember a special person or time of life.

This coming year, discover your own reasons for being a gardener. If there's enough time to watch that football game or learn that new computer program, then there's enough time to garden. Whatever the reasons that you garden, it's a satisfying activity that provides a lifetime of benefits.


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