• Ashley

How I Came to Gardening and What Gardening Gave Back To Me

Updated: Apr 7

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

— Alfred Austin


Being that this is the first week we’ll be selling our spray-free garden vegetables, I thought it might be appropriate to give you some history about how I found gardening and maybe more importantly what gardening has given back to me. Although I’ve hinted here and there in my instagram posts how I started my gardening journey, I’ve never actually sat down to write it all out in one place. So here we go!



Family Teachings


Like many of us (especially those of us growing up on farms), our start in gardening came long before us. Both of my grandmother’s gardened - one much better than the other. My maternal grandmother tried to garden, but it just wasn’t her thing. I remember many content days as a child out in her garden not knowing what things were or if things were being done “right”, but my mom says she was just terrible when it came to gardening and that it was really more of my grandfather's hobby. I never knew my paternal grandmother because she passed before I was born, but my dad tells me she was quite the gardener. She was the classic, hardworking homesteader wife with a large family to feed, who literally made use of everything from the garden for their daily meals and for preserves to survive the winter. My dad often says that she would have loved to garden with me now and I sometimes wish I could have those experiences and hear her wisdom.


During my lifetime, my parents had a small garden where we harvested vegetables for most of our summer dinners and prepared preserves for the winter, (but not with as much intensity as my grandparents did). I also grew up being a vendor at a local farmer’s market. My parent’s started farmer's marketing as a way to make some extra cash, and of course some of that trickled down to myself and my brother which was a nice little bonus. My mom admits that she really hates gardening. She hated the early mornings of having to get up to start harvesting and going to the market; she hated the many sunburns, and the overall dirtiness of the job…just all the things. On the flip side, my dad really likes gardening - he enjoys early mornings, doesn’t sunburn, doesn’t mind dirt, and he also really enjoys talking to people at the markets. My dad also comes with a wealth of gardening knowledge that was passed down from his mother. And my mom is really good at researching things and remembering what NOT to do from her own mother’s experiences!


I feel like I was the weird kid (and later on, youth) who really enjoyed gardening. During my summer holidays, instead of going to summer camps (because I was waaayyy too anxious to spend that amount of time with people I didn’t know), I was always up early to get all of my gardening tasks done so that I could find some relief during the hottest part of the day - I know, nerd alert! My brother was the opposite and probably more “normal”  in all of the ways! I also, for some reason, feel the need to preface, that although I laid my personality out here like I was a complete closed off child, I uncomfortably (and probably awkwardly) conformed with my peers because that's what you do as a child and youth, but it just wasn't who I was deep down.


I can remember fragmented pieces of being taught how to plant potatoes and when to pick the beans, but I can’t remember being taught how to garden or how I’ve learned what I now know, but I’m sure it’s through all of the intergenerational teachings and good old practice and trial and error. And sometimes I think some of these things are just in your blood, and your body and mind just KNOW it at a soul level, you know?



Garden Teachings


When I sit back and reflect on what I was thinking and feeling during my time in the garden as a young person, I just remember feeling like I had a purpose, and I also remember taking a lot of pride in the product we were selling to other people (as you get to know me, you’ll learn that I’ve always been an attention-to-detail and a ‘presentation matters’ kind of person). I also remember many days when I was supposed to be weeding and I would just sit in the dirt amongst the thriving plants where I would reflect on life because my youth years were tough. I can now look back and see that just being and spending time in the garden (and out in nature in general) was and still is such a powerful, therapeutic practice for me. Here’s a few benefits I’ve noted:

  1. Stress Relief. It’s said that gardening can fight stress more-so than other relaxing leisure activities which is definitely true for me! I would much rather be out in my garden at the end of a stressful day than go lay on the beach. That's just me though! Because we live in a society where we are expected to be functioning at our maximum capacity all the damn time we naturally become fatigued. When we get fatigued, we become more irritable, error-prone, distractible and let’s not forget it...stressed out. This is where gardening can come in and save the day! We can recharge and replenish ourselves by engaging in something called “involuntary attention,” an effortless form of attention that we use to enjoy nature. Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., a horticulture instructor and researcher in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says that trading up your Apple iPhone for an apple tree is an excellent way to reduce stress and fatigue because the rhythms of the natural environment and the repetitive, soothing nature of many gardening tasks are all good sources of effortless attention.

  2. Mental Health. I can honestly say that my mental health is as good as it is because of the amount of time I spend outside. Because we live in an area of the world where it’s too cold for growing anything for almost 6 months out of the year, I make an extra effort to spend time outside knowing that it’s good for my mental health. Spending time in my garden is just the icing on top and again, the repetitive tasks that go along with gardening soothe and relax your brain. I remember reading about a study that was conducted in Norway where folks who had been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants had experienced an improvement in their depression symptoms. What's even better, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended.

  3. Exercise. This is a given. Gardening helps you move your body in all sorts of ways including digging, planting, weeding and other repetitive tasks that require some low impact strength work and stretching. The fresh air makes your lungs open up, the movement helps circulate your blood and let’s not forget about the sunshine and that added Vitamin D (I know it's not exercise related but still a wonderful benefit during the summer months)! What I love about gardening and it’s built -in exercise routine is that I’m more likely to stick with it because I don’t even think about it as exercise. Anybody who knows me knows that I despise the gym life and I just choose not to go because I just can't do it. But with gardening, I get some exercise, it’s pleasurable and it’s not just exercise for exercise itself. I now dare you to say exercise 10 times as quickly as you can!

  4. Nutrition. Of course this was going to make it onto the list! The food that comes out of your garden is the BEST, most nutritious, and tasty, fresh food you can eat! Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers who don’t garden. But no worries, if you don’t have a garden, then the next best step is to purchase your veggies from a local provider so that you’re getting them at their freshest. See how you can sign up to receive fresh, spray-free vegetables from me this summer here! Another option is to share a space with someone, or look at community garden plots!



I’ve now been selling my delicious labors of love for three years. This all really started out small where I was finding myself with too much of one thing. One thing that happens every year on the farm is that my dad gets carried away in the spring when we start seeding the garden. I guess it doesn’t look like we’ve planted enough, but we often end up with so much abundance and extra’s that we cannot possibly use it all. I CANNOT just throw fresh veggies away - you might as well ask me to chop off my entire arm; it’s just impossible. So instead of torturing myself, I decided to just put it out into the local world of Instagram and Facebook, asking if people want to purchase my extras. I guess my dad is maybe the actual reason why I’m selling vegetables now - thanks dad! Anyways, one thing grew into another and here we are three years later, still selling my extra abundance!


I also cannot write another paragraph with you thinking that I do this all by myself because I definitely do not! Although you may only see me on Instagram and at the door when you come to pick up your order, I have my mom, dad and husband helping me out whenever they can. My mom, always feeds me and helps me with our preserves. My dad, helps me plant, weed, harvest and wash the produce when he’s not busy in the field. My husband helps me weed on the weekends and has recently taken up an interest in preserves! He will sometimes greet you at the door when I just cannot wait to have a shower after a day outside. My family is an amazing support and I could not keep up if I didn’t have them in my corner. If you’re reading this family, THANK YOU! And last but certainly not least, let’s not forget all of you, everyone who has purchased from me in the past and intends to do so in the future, THANK YOU, because without your support, I wouldn’t be able to do this in the same, fulfilling way.


Are you a gardener? Comment below and let us know how gardening makes you feel!


Take care, and be kind to yourselves, Root & Sprouters!


Ashley

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