I can remember the smell of the wet soil as my grandma and I walked through her abundant Wisconsin garden. She always turned at the exact moment to catch me with chipmunk cheeks full of sun-warmed pear tomatoes — my favorite. We’d laugh, and she’d jokingly remind me to save a few for us to eat at lunch. (There’s no way I could’ve eaten all of the tomatoes on those overflowing plants, but that never stopped me from trying!)
To me that garden was a magical place, like a different world. It was there I learned that amazing beauty and unbeatable taste could come from the humblest of beginnings with a bit of planning, patience and dirt under my nails. Each season Grandma moved me up the ranks — from water girl, schlepping can after can way back to the garden, to being in charge of the garden map and selecting each of the crops to grow and where to plant them.
The experience taught me to look at food differently, and to appreciate freshness, quality, hard work, the awesome power of Mother Nature, and of course good health. It also impelled me to create gardens of varying sizes at each of the five places my husband and I have called home. A tradition I plan to continue and one day pass on.
How do I love gardening? Let me count the ways.
Growing my own veg and fruit provides so many benefits. There’s nothing fresher and more local than your backyard, and harvesting at the peak of ripeness means optimal flavor and best possible nutrition. Not to mention it’s a killer (free!) source of exercise, you know exactly where your food was grown and how it was treated, and you greatly diminish your carbon footprint and costs.
Almost as important as those things to me is the kind of therapy gardening provides. Out in the open air absolutely alone with my thoughts, feeling the warm earth, discovering God’s creatures (welcome or not — I’m looking at you, fire ants), witnessing the changes that literally occur overnight. Gardening fills me with a sense of pride, accomplishment, wonder and pleasure.