In my opinion, there are two types of gardeners: those that already are, and those that want to be. I firmly believe that anyone can garden. It’s amazing that some people contend they can’t, for one reason or another. So finding a short unofficial study of reasons why people don’t garden, I decided to share with gardeners and potential gardeners alike. And in the process, convince a few folks there are many ways to garden, one of which will work for them. (photo credit: Adrienne Bourland)
1. I kill everything I touch2. I’m under a doctor’s care for [fill in blank]3. I’m afraid gardening will hurt my [fill in blank]4. I don’t have any place to plant a garden5. I can’t stand the heat6. I can’t stand the cold7. I can’t stand8. I don’t like to sweat/get dirty/mess up my nails9. I don’t have the time10. Why should I when there’s a store for that?
A friend confessed “I can kill an African violet just by looking at it”. Since she is an accomplished gardener, my glee in discovering she isn’t perfect was tempered by the realization that some plants just don’t work for me either. So get over it, accept that we all have affinities for certain people, pets, and plants, and keep trying. The plantsman J.C. Raulston put it this way – “You’re not stretching yourself as a gardener if you’re not killing plants.” Well, I’m certainly in the “stretched” category, and honestly that’s usually how we learn – by our mistakes rather than successes.
Physical limitations are a fact of life, and not only with older citizens. From small children with less strength and attention span to seniors whose joints “talk” to them and who find bending over not an option, there is a way to garden. Gardens are used for mental and physical therapy, including cancer patients, those with dementia, limited sight, those trying to assimilate into our local culture and environment. Gardening speaks a universal language.
Do check with your physician before undertaking any new activity but be aware that gardening can be gentle as well as intense. There are calories burned and muscles stretched associated with almost any gardening activity, and if done correctly (we do know how to pick up items using our legs instead of our backs), can benefit our overall health.
No place to plant a garden? Houseplants qualify, as do container gardens, raised bed gardens, windowsill gardens, bathtub gardens, back porch and patio gardens, and a college student’s bookcase garden. The concept that only an in-ground plot of flowers, vegetables, or whatever is a “garden” is not only outdated, but an insult to those who garden no matter where and to what degree. I’ve seen some fabulous gardens on the 4th floor of high-rise apartments in the most urban of environments. I wouldn’t begin to dismiss those passionate folks as anything other than gardening “soilmates.”
Weather conditions certainly impact our ability to garden but if plants can handle hot, cold, dry, wet and survive, certainly we can adjust our gardening practices to accommodate a variety of conditions. That includes wearing appropriate clothing, such as gloves. Not only will they keep hands clean, they’ll protect against thorny plants (think roses) that need tending. From head to toe, hats to boots, garden suppliers offer both functional and whimsical items for use in our gardens.
Naturally the bigger the garden, we’d expect to spend relatively more time tending to it. So, if you’re in the “wanna be a gardener” group, keep it simple and start small. Pots or containers can be easier to handle but keep in mind that plants will need monitoring. Everything that makes plants grow is confined to what’s available within the width and depth of its growing environment, i.e. pot.
Yes, there’s a store selling the flower or vegetable, but you don’t get the same rush as growing it yourself! Nor the freshness, nor control of what was sprayed on the plant. There’s undeniable satisfaction in the planting, nurturing, and enjoyment associated with “I grew that!”
So … why don’t you garden?
Written by Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Email questions to Sallie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 205-879-6964 x11. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!
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