A Passion of Mine
I’ve always been into plants. I grew up watching my grandmother take care of her garden, which was always beautiful. Grandma was very active; she used to grocery shop on foot and used to do all housekeeping chores herself, but gardening was the only physical activity she practiced. The turf grass she used to mow herself with scissors, squatting. This year she will turn 105 years old – living proof of the benefits of gardening. Like her, I’ve always liked to surround myself with green to soften up the concrete roughness. Over the years I have been changing houses, states, and countries, always buying new plants to decorate my new places.
I’ve wanted to build a garden for years. Late last year, when I heard about the University of Tennessee Extension Master Gardener program, I decided it was time to take action. I enrolled in the program and over the course of 14 weeks, I learned about soil, botany, ornamental plants, trees, shrubs, pests and diseases, landscaping, and horticulture. The training is a broad collection of college-level information. Besides the great lectures and material, it gave me access to many other resources for research. As a bonus, I’ve become part of an amazing community of people who, like me, appreciate nature and our interaction with it.
Before I even finished the Master Gardeners’ program, I started planning my garden. I picked a sunny spot in my backyard and opted for raised beds, as my backyard’s soil analysis was not very satisfactory. I bought the necessary material and I and my husband set up the beds. The next week we filled it up. We carried 34 40-pound bags of topsoil and compost! It took us a whole Saturday morning of hard work but was totally worth it! The beds were beautiful and full of rich soil to receive the seedlings.
There is a famous gardening method called Square Foot Gardening where a raised bed is divided into square feet. The division streamlines the process. Each square foot receives the number of seedlings or seeds according to the recommended spacing for a particular plant. Experts recommend planting two square feet at a time to avoid getting tired to the point of giving up. I followed the method, and it simplifies the job indeed. On the first day, I planted seedlings of lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, parsley, and marigold. Later the same day I planted seeds of two different kinds of Kale. Two weeks later was time for herbs and tomatoes. And on the last day, I did onions and chives.
Species that attract pollinators are essential components of every garden. These animals are the ones that move the pollen from the male part to the female part of the flower of the same or another plant. This is how fertilization is done so that the plant produces fruits, seeds, and young plants. Pollination can be done by insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies e beetles. As well as by birds and bats. That’s why it’s important to plant flowers and herbs that will attract a diversity of pollinators.
Save the Bees
Bees have disappeared in record numbers. Certain butterfly populations are also in decline. That’s why all help is welcome. Planting flowers is a simple thing we can all do to improve the environment and attract these animals. I have planted a variety of flowers and herbs that have attracted several bumble bees and birds. To top it off flowers make everything prettier!
To learn more about this matter and how you can help follow the link to the Xerces Society for Invertebrates Conservation.
It is a best practice to wait for the last probable freeze date to start planting a garden. It’s so to increase the chances of most vegetables surviving. I prepped my beds in March and started planting at the end of April. Only six weeks have passed since I planted the first seedling, but it’s amazing how everything has grown! So far, the cucumber was the only one that hasn’t survived a crazy windy day we had. Everything else keeps growing. Since last week we are already eating our own lettuce, parsley, chives, and mint.
One of the main lessons from growing a vegetable garden is patience. It’s fascinating to watch the small changes day in and day out. The most interesting case so far was what happened to my Kale plants. I directed seeded four kale plants on the same day, one next to the other. One of them grew up soon and it is already huge. Another took so long to get off the ground that I thought it hadn’t made it. Each one of the four plants is at a different stage. Each one is growing at its own pace, in its own time. So amazing!
The Need to Grow
There is a growing number of people interested in horticulture. Which makes me very happy because I believe this is the future. The current monocropping agricultural model loaded with pesticides is not sustainable for the planet. This model has been depleting the soil and causing harm to consumers’ health. There is nothing healthier and more sustainable than growing your own food. The diversity of small residential gardens is the closest to the natural world. A diverse garden is a mini ecosystem. As such it will find its balance and keep the soil and the crops healthy. Again, nature teaches us that diversity is key to balance.
Benefits of Gardening
In addition to providing the freshest and cleanest food possible, gardening is an excellent physical activity. An hour of gardening is equivalent to an hour of jogging. It also guarantees our daily dose of sun for vitamin D synthesis and connection with nature. Taking care of plants is a great stress and anxiety reliever. It is even a therapeutic practice indicated for patients with various types of cognitive and mental health issues. As well as a great way to reconnect with planet Earth and our roots. I can assure you that it is an extremely rewarding activity!
Remember: Good is what makes you feel well!
To read about my grandma’s longevity secrets read my blog post Blue Dot Grandma.