What? Me? Contrary?

The other day someone asked me a question that “flew all over me.” It was this: “Why in the world do you bother with a garden?”
Bother? I did not like that choice of word. I just don’t understand it. What kind of question is that? What in the world should we all be “bothering” with, if not a garden?

So the question put me on the defensive immediately. I bucked up. Yes, I became contary. And sassy. And I went into some discourse about fresh food and organics and cooking and stress relief and I don’t know what else.
Sadly, I did NOT do a good job defending “edible gardening.” It’s a pity because I wish everyone would plant something to eat somewhere in their yard or kitchen window or deck. A blueberry bush. Or some herbs in a pot. Or lettuces. Or a tomato in the middle of the bushes.
I’ve wondered why I got so contrary with this particular person when she asked me about it. Am I just tired of the question? Am I putting more into it than what was meant?
Yes, both of those. But I also think I was overly sensitive because I developed a love for edible gardening and then couldn’t do it. For the last few years, I lived in a place where my only garden was a small sliver of dirt beside my driveway. I also planted in pots on my too shady deck.
But not this year! This year I have actual dirt again. On the ground. I love and appreciate my garden this year. Now more than ever. I guess I am overly defensive about it. I guess that’s my excuse for being “quite contrary.”
So yesterday I’m out in the garden—in the heat and humidity, by the way. Not a bit of breeze. But I’m out there loving it.
I’m in what I call the “lower garden.” It’s a work in progress. I should really call it the “lower red clay clump” at this point. I thought it would be ready for planting this spring, but it wasn’t. I’m still working on it. (I’ve got a BIG problem with deer and dogs and bunnies, so I need a fence of some sort.  My garlic is there though. I’ve not had any of the animals bother my garlic.)
Anyway. I’m in the “lower garden” doing a variety of things:
I’ve got to snap some garlic scapes for a pasta dish for dinner (Last year’s post has the recipe for garlic scape pesto)

I’ve got to remove some pine straw mulch from the area where I want to plant pumpkins.  I need to do some weeding and general cleaning.
And I’ve got ONE thing on my mind:
So why do I “BOTHER” to garden?
Hmmm….What about you, why do you BOTHER to garden?
While I was working in the garden, breaking and dirtying fingernails, sweating up a storm, digging and raking and hoeing and enjoying life in a big way, I came up with a list.
Here it is. A list of the reasons why I garden, by Rebekah Teal. Here we go.
(I plan to memorize this list, by the way, and lovingly recite it for anyone and everyone who asks me in the future why I bother to garden—–)
1.       The way a big juicy warm just picked tomato tastes on a hot summer day.
2.       The joy of growing things I can’t buy in the store—–like garlic scapes! And this year I grew Chinese Kale and Fava Beans.

Fava Beans

3.      The difference between the deliciousness and crispness of a Sugar Snap Pea just off the vine and one that’s from the store. No comparison.
4.      That tasty, varied, buttery and spicy lettuce from the garden first thing in springtime.
5.      The flavors that just-picked herbs add to dishes. Nothing like it.

French Tarragon

6.    Because I like dirt. I’ve always liked the way dirt smells. I like to churn it and turn it and enrich it. I like the way it feels cool to the touch. I was one of those kids who liked to be outside and get dirty. I remember some awesome and messy mud fights. And in fact, am currently eyeing one of those races you run in the mud. Have you heard about those? Sounds like a blast to me. The muddier the better!
7.    And because I like to be outside. I would rather be outside all weekend then inside. I think, if I didn’t have the “excuse” of gardening, I’d be doing house work or work-work right now.
8.    About this time while I was working and formulating my list, I notice how much my lower back hurts. I put down my hoe and I do the “Rag Doll” yoga pose. It feels wonderful to my back.
Here’s what you do: Inhale a big breath. Then as you exhale, lean over, bending at the waist, keeping your knees as straight as possible, yet comfortable. Allow your arms to hang loosely down; relax everything, including your face. Just hang there. You’ll feel an incredible stretch in your lower back. Yummy.
So then Number 8 came to my mind. It’s good for my body. Gardening is exercise.
9.    Which brought me to gardening being good not only for my body, but also for my mental and emotional health. We all know how it feels to come in after some time in a garden.
10.  Hey, and not to mention that gardening is in my blood. I come from a long line of farmers and gardeners. My grandparents made their living on the land. Since that generation, we’ve been backyard gardeners.
11.   It gives me warm fuzzies. Gardening to me means reminiscing. Kind of the same thing as 10, just more specific. I remember helping my father plant his garden every year. Lettuce early. Corn and beans (in the same hole, so the beans could grow up the corn). Okra and eggplant, more because he likes the plants than the veggies. Turnip greens and kale in the fall. I remember my mom heading out to my father’s garden, to find something to cook for dinner. She still does.
12.   More warm fuzzies. It makes me feel wonderful to grow and cook healthy food for my family. Isn’t that an important part of growing your own food? You know the dirt; you know the seeds; you know the care they received while growing; you know what was used on the plants; you know when it was picked; you know the care it received after it was picked. I think that’s huge.
13.   It’s also an inspirational. Gardening is watching something wonderful and miraculous happen.
14.   So can I legitimately and honestly call it “fun”? Am I having fun right now this very minute? I ask myself. Yes, I decide that I am. The entire process has some element of fun in it. I think the thing that makes it the most “fun” though, it that it is so rewarding. I mean, come on, that’s fun. Accomplishing something tangible and delicious. So Number 14 is that it is fun.
As I was finishing up my list, I had begun working on an area that was barren and covered in pine straw. This would become my pumpkin patch. A small one, of course, with maybe four plants. Yes, this is fun. Then! Well, then I raked some pine straw away from the area. Lo and behold, I uncovered a brown snake! Thank goodness it was siesta time in snake-land. I awakened him. (Have I mentioned that I have a snake phobia? Yes, many times. I thought so. It’s pretty debilitating and I talk about it a lot.)
But the weirdest thing happened.
I did not do my snake dance. I did not do my snake scream. I did not run.
Definitely a first. I just stood there.
And I looked at him.
And then I said, rather calmly, “Get the hell out of my garden…”
(Sorry about the language, I don’t usually use language like that, but I’m just being honest. That is exactly what I said to that snake. With passion too. And with an emphasis on the “hell.” It was like this, “Get the HELL out of my garden!!”
He looked up at me. And he did not do as I asked. He did not move. I read his thoughts, “What?!” he thought, “You get out of MY garden!”
So I took the rake. And I…I…I….
I covered him back up with the pine straw. I did.
And I got out of his garden. Ha.
I decided now was not the time to work on that pumpkin patch. Now was a good time to snap garlic scapes and make some pesto. And celebrate the fact that my snake phobia has evolved. It’s now just a regular normal run-of-the-mill snake fear. WooHoo! Never thought that would happen! I was not all petrified and crazy.
So now I’ve got number 15 on my list: Gardening evolves me. Wow, that’s a good one.
So why are you bothering?
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

  1. Debbie says:

    Don’t get me started!!!!!!!!

    I’ll tell you " why bother gardening "!!!

    Mind if I just add to your list? It’s a great start!

    15. I love dirt too, the smell of it and I remember actually tasting dirt when I was 4. I was out in the shady flower bed on the side of our house and I couldn’t have been happier smelling and tasting that rich dark dirt!

    ( for the record, that was the last time I ate dirt ) 🙂

    16. I would rather be outside than in! I love all aspects of gardening. I love when the first inspiration hits me to try something new in one of my flower borders. I love to paint with plants in my garden.. All the while I am digging and weeding I can imagine to my hearts content what more red would look like here or there or if some deep purple would compliment such and such in my garden or how the silver leaves of russian sage look next to the deep green leaves of cone flower or near an oak leaf hydrangia…

    There is more wonder to be had in a garden! If people only knew!!!

    17. To eat healthier and from our own soil…There is nothing like the taste of a home grown well, anything!

    We have a small veggie garden at the lower end of a large flower border! This years entries so far: 2 kinds of squash, peas, pickling cuc’s and pumpkins… I still have two unplanted rows I’m saveing for lettuce and peppers!

    18. IT’S FUN…IT’S WORK… IT’S FUN WORK…and rewarding from the inside out!!!!

    I love to say, " put down some roots, you’ll just feel better!

    19. Because even when I’m not IN the garden I can READ about gardening!!!!!!!!


    Great post!


    ps. congratulations on your progress with the " snake phobia"!!! Keep at it Rebekah!

  2. Cindy says:

    Your snake story cracked me up! I can picture it! 🙂

  3. Jane says:

    Why do I "bother" with a garden??

    Long story short-I come from a family of gardeners…from way-yy back to the farmers in the NYS family in the 1800’s (at least that I know of…and before-my mothers family came to this country in the 1600"s!! I am sure they gardened or farmed!)
    My great grandmother, grandfathers (both sides) and mother all boasted beautiful gardens both food and flowers
    I have been growing things since I was a teenager–in my ROOM! Even trying tropical house plants (guava for one.
    I can not imagine not growing something…anything, even if only in a pot on the windowsill if that’s all I had! .. and have been organic (veg and flowers) since 1971…
    It is relaxing, rewarding, and just plain fun..what fun to out a seed in the ground and watch it grow (if you can keep it away from the squirrels!) into something to put on the table…! It never loses that magic for me…(and 20 years ago I added chickens to the mix…can never go back!)

  4. TJ says:

    I love gardening because my nearly-3 year old daughter walked up to me yesterday and said, "I tink dis is a fwiend of yours, Mommy" and handed me a seed she had found.

    Because my kids garden with me, they are learning that food comes from the dirt (or the woods) and that it takes work which is good for you, and that it tastes delicious when you "helped" God and mommy grow it!

    My other child is my 4 year old son, and they "fight" over the bay leaves or chunks of garlic in food I make, and sometimes grab handfuls of broccoli florets or carrots out of the fridge even before breakfast. Their eyes sparkle and they’re healthier than horses and have (sigh) gobs of energy…

    Gardening is good for my kids, and it’s good for my husband and I too!! Thanks for your post!!!
    ~TJ in zone 5

  5. Genevieve says:

    Because gardening is MAGIC. To plant a seed and then watch it turn into a leaf, and then into a bigger leaf, and then one day pop little buds all over the place?

    That is pure magic, it never gets old, it never ceases to amaze me, and I never lose that feeling of astonishment that it actually "worked". We’re participating in a creative process that is rarely replicated elsewhere in life.

    Sounds like the gardening naysayer just sees gardening as a chore that people do for appearances only, or because they think they "should." Maybe you should invite her to join you in your garden for a day in the sun so she can see what all the "bother" is about!

  6. Mary Frances says:

    Gardening is medicine for my body and mind, (grin). I have two apple trees in my big back yard. I don’t spray much. Last Fall I was gathering apples by the bucket. Some were going to a friend with horses that love the "dropped ones". Most apples needed a boo-boo cut out of it somewhere as NONE were perfect. A neighbor asked "what on earth are you doing?" I answered, "gathering apples; do you want some?" .. She looked HORRIFIED and said, "Why BOTHER when I can just run to the store and get perfect ones?" … I didn’t know what to say to her. She will never understand why I BOTHER, so why bother thinking of a good answer? I can see that YOU know exactly why I am bothering. …Good article with good thoughts! .. I am glad you "bothered" to write it up and share with us!

  7. I think I would have had to reply "Why in the world do YOU NOT garden?"

    Yesterday my Grands and I ate tomatoes and green beans, cucumbers and squash … fresh and raw from the garden. Our toes were in the dirt, our hearts were happy…

  8. Nancy says:

    Hope you don’t mind, but I think that question is rather snotty!!!! I was born & raised in a large city, but I always loved to hear my Dad & my maternal Grandfather(Pop-Pop) talk about when they were kids. Not that they lived in the counrty, but each had a small farm(lol a acre). When we bought a summer house down the shore, we started am large garden with tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, tomatoes, radishes & did I say tomaotes…My whole family loves fresh from the garden tomaotes. Only thing better than picking & eating a ripe, red tomatoe off the vine, is a fresh, slice of juicy, red tomaotoe on two pieces of whte bread slathered with mayo, a little salt & pepper. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!!! Or when either my Mom or my maternal Grandmom(Mom-Mom) would fry up a batch of crusty, crisp tomatoes. Yum!!! Anyway…Why do I still plant a few tomatoe plants each year?? Not just for the great taste but for all the memories of my family. And now when Spring comes around, my kids & grandkids know "Mom would love some plants for her birthday(Easter..Mother’s Day…etc)especially tomatoe plants"…Yum…Nothing is better than Jersey tomaotes. Thanks for reminding me why I "bother"!!!! >^^<

  9. Svenska says:

    Answer with a question: Why do you think it is a "bother"? I’d be interested in her answer to that question. I guess my answer would be: "Since when is wholesome food a bother?"

    Hehe, another question/answer!

  10. Kari says:

    you are right on target with everything. I garden to escape everything else. I garden to enjoy the fruits of my labors. I garden so I can play in the dirt. I garden so I can be outside with purpose. I garden because I love the it. That’s it. I garden. Hugs from ND, Kari

  11. Marcie says:

    I can relate to the "lower red-clay clump" because that was phase 1 of our garden, but we kept tilling in handmade compost until it became a garden. Phase 2 was a rabbit wire fence and then I planted. Now we have a jungle (maybe I planted too much) but the reward will be worth the ‘bother’ because we love it. Gardening is what we do… it’s what makes us who we are. I cannot imagine not gardening. This is why we chose a place in the country. Bother? why not! And for the snake, thank you for covering it back up and not ‘bothering ‘ it. You’re a good person Rebekah.

  12. Roxann Bowker says:

    Why bother? What if everyone thought why bother? We all be slightly starving. Our country was founded on working( Farmers) men and women. I so appreciate people like you that stand up for what they believe. Thank You for your post. Roxann

  13. Peggy Beck says:

    I too love to bother. All the reasons you give plus I lost my life partner in December of 2009 and am using my time in the garden as therapy and rebuilding a new life without him.

  14. kay says:

    It’s amazing to me that I plant a seed and it grows….that’s why I bother…oh and I would
    rather be outside than inside.

  15. Cheri says:

    TOOO ironic- with a fullt time job a teenager that is really involved in the commuity and 3 horses-I LOVE TO GARDEN- in fact i pulled a muscle in my left index finger this weekend- noticed it monday. Can only ascertain that i must have done it weeding over the weekend. No kidding- i pulled a muscle in my finger from weeding.

    I like to work in the garden barefoot. Canned my first batch of strawberry jam last week and still find green army men in teh garden from when my now 20 year old was younger. I do not remove them, but just leave them to remind me of how much fun it is to have a legacy.

    People who dont garden dont get it. I traded a load of old aged manure for tomato seedlings. That is how it works.

  16. Heidi says:

    Gardening for me is a way of being optimistic in a pesimistic world. It provides something to look forward to, and something beautiful to look at. My labors are always readily rewarded with food that I can cook with and eat or a beautiful border to look at. The visual delight is what I most love; the colors, the textures. And it’s easy. Anyone can garden.

  17. Carla says:

    I have been gardening since I helped my grandpa plant in our backyard at 2 or 3 years of age. That makes it over 50 years, I haved gardens in pots on terraces in Spain, vegetables growing in flower beds in military housing, planted one at my parents house when I lived in an apartment for a couple of years, pots of vegetables in Georgia, and finally for the last 12 years or so in my own yard.
    I have to play in the dirt every spring, summer and fall. I think it is part of who I am.
    Spring greens are over flowing on the deck right now so it will be a salad night for supper here. Herbs, vegetables, strawberries on the the vine,fresh at its best.
    I am also a regular visitor to the local farm market.

  18. Diane Van Horn says:

    Why "bother" to garden is like saying why "bother" to breathe.

  19. pam says:

    I can’t say I love Dirt! In fact I’d rather not get dirty and sweaty, I do appreciate the benefits of exercise but I can’t really say I always enjoy it…But I do love, love, love to garden… I didn’t really care for working in the garden growing up…My generous next door neighboor shared a "mess" of her wax beans and several quarts of the canned ones,and now I’m hooked, and am only constrained by space and time…I love knowing that I can grow and preserve my own food if need be…and those home canned tomatoes and greenbeans are definetly better than the tin can grocery store variety…I can taste summertime in every bite.

  20. Sheri ~ Wildpansyflower says:

    Why bother? Because it’s no bother at all, it’s a must and love!
    Some one once said to me regarding recycling: "I can afford not to recycle". Like you, I jumped on the defense cycle. "Our earth can’t afford for us NOT to recycle", is what I wished I had said.

    Sometimes the reasons we do things are just not understood because the eyes of understanding aren’t open.

  21. KimberlyD says:

    Plant on the outside of your garden marigolds…it will keep the rabbits out. I love garden too, but sadly I am like you use to be, I only have a small spot in front of my half of the yard in front of my apartment. But I plant tomatoes, one year, onions, another, green peppers (I rotate for its small spot and don’t want to depleate the dirt)
    And a spot for flowers.

    So keep planting.

  22. Paula says:

    Great blog. I too am very protective of my gardening hobby. I decided long ago not to care if people get it or not. I always enjoy coming here for like-minded fellowship. We are out here! Keep gardening!  

  23. Lida says:

    I garden because it connects me to the women in the world who garden and the women of history who gardened (like my mom). I garden because it gets me outside where life is so very real. I garden because it is meditative and productive at the same time. I garden because it tastes good.

    I pray that I never reach a point in life when I can’t always have something growing nearby. I visited a gardening woman in a nursing home with no growing things in her room, no signs of life. So very sad. There was a dead plant on the window sill. She can no longer tend growing things and there is no one who cares enough to tend them for her.

  24. Janey says:

    Gardening is cheaper than a psychologist. I feel so at ease after a few hours of working in the garden. The rewards are great. I’d be contrary if I didn’t garden!

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