Gardening for Health

Gardening Reaps Variety of Rewards 

My grandmother was born in the late 1890s and she lived through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression and she saw a man land on the moon. She has long since passed away, but her wisest words to me were, “You’ll never be hungry if you have a garden or a farm.” 

They are words that I have lived my life by. It is heart-wrenching to see long lines of people waiting to get food because they do not have enough to eat. I know not everyone has the space for a garden but perhaps we should try to have more community gardens where everyone can participate and also harvest the rewards of a garden.  

If you live in an apartment, think creatively about decks, bright windows, and small outdoor areas not being used for anything. You’ll be amazed at what you can grow in containers. The commercial grow-box method is extremely productive. The initial investment is about $50 to $60 and the reward of vegetables is a very good return.   

No matter what kind of garden you have, fostering biodiversity is very important. You want to support successful pollination, prevent harm from unwanted pests, and support the larger health of the planet. Folk wisdom and science agree that the more diversity you introduce to your garden, the fewer crop pests will be around. Growing a diversity of plants, as most family farms used to, such as annuals, perennials, flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit helps create a habitat that shelters and nourishes beneficial insects and pollinators. Without pollinators, our vegetable plants won’t produce food.  

Flowers say to beneficial insects, “Yoo-hoo if you come over here, you’ll get a reward.” Of course, the reward is pollen and nectar, protein, and carbohydrates, the two basic building blocks of any diet. 

Modern-day agriculture, although very productive, has a high carbon footprint. Mono-cropping, using herbicides and pesticides and irresponsible fertilizing are slowly destroying the environment and the people of the planet. Organic gardening cares about the earth and all of its inhabitants.  

We should engage in practices that create healthy and vibrant ecosystems from the smallest container garden to a large farm field.  We want the four Ps in our gardens: pollinators (native and non), predators, parasitoids (beneficial insects), and passerines (insectivorous songbirds). I will elaborate on these next week.