According to the National Gardening Assn., as of 2009, roughly 37% of U.S. households participate in home gardening. Why don't we see more participation?
Reasons why people say they don't garden:
- They don't have the space or opportunity. They might live in apartments or rent where it's not an option. Understandable. Although, at one duplex we rented, the landlord was happy to allow us to garden. Also, there are things like community gardens. Where we presently live, the population is only 2,500 people, but the town provides a very nice area for residents.
- Physical disabilities. They might be overweight or suffer from joint or back problems. Understandable.
- It's work. Here's where excuses wear thin. You could say it's work. It's also good exercise. Both upper and lower body gets a workout. It helps get your circulation going and contributes to flexibility.
- It's hard work. No, it's not. Small raised bed and container gardens are dead easy to maintain. Someone in a wheelchair can do it. A 10x10 garden isn't any more work to maintain than a living room, depending on your definition of clean, I guess. In the spring, you lay down landscape fabric or (cheaper) use newspaper, which has the advantage of not only keeping weeds down, but helping retain soil moisture. Then, you put grass clippings over the top of that and at the end of the season, you turn the clippings into the soil.
- It takes time. Uh, everything takes time. You got just 5 hours a week you can spare? That's the average time reported by gardeners to the N.G.A. Not even an hour a day. I realize that some people keep full and hectic schedules. I guess that's their prerogative - how they choose to spend their time. Personally, if I had a busy schedule, I'd enjoy spending a little time in my garden, getting fresh air, smelling all the wonderful aromas, listening to the birds, just de-stressing as I watered and tended.
- It costs money? Uh, wrong. It actually makes money. According to the N.G.A. data, the average return for gardeners was equivalent to $530 per growing season. That means, if you're a guy like me who got paid $20/hr my skills, I could have opted to spend 26.5 MORE hours each growing season for the pleasure of being at work longer, to make the $530 and buying my produce at the supermarket. Sorry, I'd rather spend those hours in the garden.
Feeding is free or dirt cheap. Many communities have compost sites. Ours is totally free, but other's we've used charged only $20 a trailer/pickup load. That's a bargain. Price that out next time you're at a garden center.
Now, let's look at the reasons people DO garden:
- It's good therapy. One of the best ways to de-stress. Get your hands in the earth. It's aromatherapy, too. Brush against one of these plants and see what happens: basil, chives, mints, lemon balm, fennel, lavender. And it can be a kind of meditation. as when you concentrating on gardening, you're not thinking about a host of other stressful things. You become part of the cyclical process of life. You get to enjoy the visual beauty, color and textures of the plants. And, you can often taste and sample as you work.
- It's healthy. While studies have shown that nutritionally, frozen is not much inferior to fresh, the quality lies in that freshness. There's no comparison to eating fresh produce (raw or cooked) that just came from your garden. Plus, you have the added comfort of knowing HOW those crops were grown (chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers) and that as long as you WASH it, you won't be one of the 48 million people who get food-related illnesses each year. 1 in 5 food illnesses were linked to commercially processed leafy greens.
So, there you have it. We've been happy gardeners for over 40 years. Some plots were small and some were large, be we always got a good return in terms of dollars, flavor and satisfaction. No matter what the physical activity, it's just good sense to keep active. We still get more than enough couch time.