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NGB's Garden Articles offers tips, techniques, and information for home gardeners growing annual flowers and vegetables. Any or all of this information may be reprinted, with credit given to National Garden Bureau.
Spring is the time of year for new beginnings, the start of another cycle of growth. The warming temperatures and longer days reawaken nature and people. This year try something new - become a gardener.
Originally published in 2007.
This is the time of year for new beginnings. Spring signals the start of another cycle of growth. The warming temperatures and longer days reawaken nature and people. This year try something new yourself—become a gardener.
Garden for tradition—old or new. Gardening has been part of the human culture for centuries. Not long ago most families still had gardens and relied on it to provide food for their family. Remember visiting grandma’s house as a child and picking deliciously scented flower bouquets—or the thrill of pulling on green tops and being surprised with a carrot to eat right from the ground? Recreate some of those memories for you and your family to enjoy again.
If you’ve never tried to garden, start a new tradition. You don’t have to dig up the entire yard. Begin with a small container or border area for flowers. If you want vegetables, get some large pots or create a small garden area and fill with easy-to-grow lettuce, delicious tomatoes, or rambling cucumbers. Gardening is a wonderful activity for parents and grandparents to share with the younger generation while creating pleasant memories for the future.
Garden to save money. Gardening is a great way to have the freshest vegetables and flowers right outside your door, and cut your expenses during the year. A packet of tomato seed costs less than a pound of tomatoes at the local supermarket yet produces dozens of plants that bear fresh, tasty tomatoes for months. If you love to have flower bouquets throughout your home, a packet of sunflower seeds costs only a few dollars and will provide beautiful blooms worth many times more. A larger garden can provide fruits and vegetables to feed a family during the entire year. Produce can be eaten fresh from the garden during the growing season and frozen or canned for later use.
Garden for the environment. Gardens offer many benefits to our planet. They provide habitat and food for all kinds of animals. Gardens can be a place to preserve native plants. They are a way to produce food locally, saving energy and materials that would otherwise be used to ship, package and store the food before it reaches our homes.
Gardens serve as a place for water to drain naturally, helping plants grow and cycling water back into the ground. A “rain garden” is a unique type of garden designed to allow water from roofs, driveways and lawns to slowly soak into the ground instead of running off into drains and storm sewers. This helps to recharge the groundwater and prevent chemicals and pollutants from washing into the lakes and streams.
Garden to attract desirable wildlife. Garden plants are magnets for birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. Flowers such as sunflower, black-eyed Susan, and purple coneflower invite songbirds that feed on the seeds after the flowers fade. Hummingbirds are drawn to pink or red flowers and other favorites including columbine, salvia, zinnias, and petunias. Butterflies are attracted to a variety of blossoms, as are beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantises that feed on many of the harmful insects that invade our gardens.
Gardens can also be home to frogs, toads and other small animals, and invite visits from rabbits, squirrels and deer. While gardeners may not always welcome larger animals, gardens provide an important source of food and habitat for many creatures.
Garden to live longer. Keeping active, both mentally and physically, can add years to your life. The physical efforts of gardening—digging, planting, bending and walking—are great forms of exercise. Exercise in turn keeps the body healthy and can improve mental outlook and mood. Gardening provides stimulation of all five senses—sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Participating in activities such as gardening reduces stress, an all too common reality of our daily lives that contributes to disease, illness, and emotional problems.
Garden for solitude and escape. While gardening can be a great way to meet people, many gardeners look forward to time in the garden by themselves. Tending to the needs of plants provides a time to be alone with one’s thoughts. A moment may be spent appreciating the wonders of nature or sorting through concerns in a calm setting. Gardening is a way to become immersed in another world. Simply sitting among the growing plants and blooming flowers is a diversion from the stresses and demands of our daily lives.
Garden to heal. Gardens have the power to restore our spirits and connect us to nature in a unique way. Many hospitals and health care facilities now recognize the healing power of a garden, whether the scars are physical, emotional or spiritual. Gardening is a great form of therapy that aids in the recovery from illness. Flourishing plants can bring hope to those who are ill or seeking a positive focus for their life. Gardens can be a respite from heartache and despair, a place to enjoy the beauty, scents and surprises of nature. Planting and caring for a beautiful flower or productive vegetable garden provides a sense of accomplishment without pressure, demands or expectations.
Garden to inspire. Gardens inspire people in many different ways. They can encourage children and adults to be more curious about plants and the environment, to become aware of the sights, scents, and feel of nature, or simply become more active. A flourishing vegetable garden promotes healthy eating by providing fresh, nutritious produce. Gardens serve as a source of inspiration revealed through photography, painting, poetry, music and other forms of creative expression. And they remind us of everything that is good in our lives—the beauty of nature, the abundance of our land, and the time we have to share with others.
We recognize Janis Kieft as the author of this article.