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Mansfield Magazine

Why Garden? Ten Amazing Reasons You Should Start (Again)….

May 20, 2015 09:38AM ● By Mary Phillips

After 4 years of severe drought in north Texas, I have to admit that my gardening habits have slacked off a bit.  The vegetable beds have decreased in size and number, flower and woodland areas now include only the hardiest survivors, and other activities have replaced many of the hours dedicated to creating beautiful and healthy outdoor spaces.  More hours working, occasions to pursue projects in the comfort of central air and heat, and – alas – more time logged behind the screens of phones, tablets, televisions and computers have replaced the shovels, soil and seeds.  Gardening was a part of daily life, providing peace, health, satisfaction and sustenance, and it is time to rekindle the love.  A rainy spring has renewed our Texas lakes and soils, as well as latent gardening spirits – so if you need to fan the flames of your own garden soul (or find a reason to pick up a trowel for the first time) here are ten great reasons to get growing!

1. Garden for safer, healthier planet.

Reports of food-borne illnesses and contamination regularly appear in the news. Warnings about disappearing bee populations flood social media. Growing concerns about pesticides have led to an increased interest in organic gardening and availability of organic produce, and awareness of transportation costs associated with not 'eating local' has shoppers flocking to their neighborhood farmers markets.  It’s estimated that during WWII, 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens that produced close to 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. Start your own garden and know the food you’re eating is fresh and safe with fantastic flavor not always found in grocery store produce.

Easy action call: You don't have to till up your backyard and convert it to tomato beds – planting a few herbs in pots near your grill, incorporating chard and kale into your existing front-door landscape or tucking some perennial crops like fruit trees, asparagus or passion vine along your fence has a greater impact than you might imagine!

2. Garden for exercise. 

Tired of the gym routine? Get a good workout without even thinking about it. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass 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. And after you’re finished, you see immediate results in your garden even as your physical health improves—without being bored.

Easy action call: Schedule a half hour garden session for yourself three or four times a week and marvel at how much you can accomplish!

3. Garden to add beauty.

A home can be made more inviting simply by adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door. Herbs by the back door or on an apartment balcony can add flavor to meals and a scented treat for family and friends as they enter.  Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade, but shelter for birds and wildlife. Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed whether you are inside or outside the house.

Easy action call: Treat yourself to one new planter or flower pot this weekend and fill it with a variety of specimens that make you smile!

4. Garden to learn.

Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves 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. Challenges like our recent Texas drought years teach us which species of plants are the most well adapted survivors in our yards, and which ones to consider eliminating from our 'replace me' lists.

Easy action call: Start a garden journal – make or purchase a beautiful notebook that inspires you, and write simple observations in it as they reveal themselves to you.  It can also serve as a place to log planting dates, success stories, insect discoveries or even amusing anecdotes!     

5. Garden to make money. 

Whether you live in your dream home or plan on moving soon, gardening adds value to your property. Real estate agents estimate that attractive landscaping increases a home’s value by as much as 15%. It also creates interest in the house and can mean the difference between a potential buyer simply driving by or stopping to take a closer look. Shade trees can significantly lower cooling costs in the summer, and replacing lawn areas with xeriscape plants can decrease water bills.  If your skills are (or become!) refined and you produce more vegetables than you can consume, sharing a farmers market booth with other gardening friends might even mean more spending money.

Easy action call: Plant a tree on the west side of your house this spring, and log your air conditioning bills over the next few years as it grows and provides more afternoon shade!

6. 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 and share. Extra tomatoes, a bouquet of flowers, or plant divisions are gifts to be shared with friends and neighbors. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs, plant organizations, and gardening websites is an easy way to share information, ask questions and get involved.

Easy action call: Does someone you know (or don't know) have a beautiful flower growing in their yard? Take a moment to ask them about it – chances are a gardening bond will form!

7. Garden to be creative. 

Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden’s design can reflect a personal sense of style such as a romantic cottage garden or a peaceful Japanese garden, as well as provide a showcase for art and sculpture. I have always contended that gardening is the most intense of all art forms, because it is 'four dimensional' – not only does it reside in three dimensional space, but it also must consider 'time' as an element of design.  A gardener must consider what their creation will look like during different seasons, as well as in a year, five years, or twenty years from now. 

Easy action call: Prune some clippings off of your existing trees, shrubs and other landscape plants.  Use them to create a beautiful centerpiece, and marvel at how simple oak leaves, holly berries and jasmine vines can look so good together in a vase!

8. Garden to win. 

If you have a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off your skills. Garden clubs regularly have events that highlight the best flowers grown by local gardeners, neighborhoods have 'yard of the month' contests, and county or state fairs provide an opportunity to demonstrate canning, growing and designing talents. Competitive gardening is not only fun and interesting; there can even be national recognition and financial rewards.

Easy action call: Look up local garden tour dates, then visit some of the most competitive spaces in your area – garden journal in hand!

9. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections. 

Gardens play an important part in our well being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private 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 excess 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 for your table. Tending a garden also contributes to improving your own living space, the environment and our planet.

Easy action call: Identify a small space in your garden or landscape beds – even a 10' x 10' area – then weed it to perfection.  In a mere 15 minutes you can create a sense of accomplishment and connection that rivals meditation practices!

10. Garden for lasting memories. 

Gardening is an ongoing adventure that can be shared with friends, your partner, children and grandchildren - even if your garden is a few containers or small beds in your yard. Gardens provide great settings for photographs and the perfect place for shooting videos – who can resist a giggle when they see footage of a toddler tasting a cherry tomato for the first time or your girlfriend squealing when she discovers a spider under a leaf?

Easy action call: Use your phone to take a snapshot of a pet, family member or even yourself in the garden this week.  Use it as a screen saver to inspire more time outdoors!

Dedicate a few moments today to rediscover your own reasons for becoming a gardener. Commit to spending an hour outdoors this week.  Pick up your garden journal and camera.  Then share your love and passion! 

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