March 28, 2021

Let’s get Dirty: the Rich Pleasures & Many Benefits of Gardening.

Reclaiming the garden for the Earth.

Gardening has become trendy again, to a large extent, because of lockdown boredom—but it has always been a practical, fulfilling thing. 

There are so many benefits to gardening: 

>> Fresh air

>> Exercise

>> Helping the environment and biodiversity by planting stuff

>> Helping the bees by planting flowering plants 

>> Providing healthy food for yourself (and others) 

>> It’s often a good community or social activity that people can enjoy together

The most obvious benefits are to our health and also to our wallet.

With inflation looming on the horizon, food will become increasingly expensive and good, clean food more so—especially organic food. By growing food yourself, you help reduce your food bills, and, of course, you know exactly what went into producing it. You have the choice to avoid using Roundup and other chemicals and, instead, use organic fertilizer to produce an entirely natural supply of fruit and vegetables if you want to.

Apart from the benefits of non-GMO, non-sprayed food, really fresh food is better for you because of higher nutrient retention. (It tastes better too.) Not to mention the pleasing sense of pride from knowing that it is the fruit of your own labour (excuse the pun). As I mentioned, there are multiple benefits, but one is that you’ll be spending time on something other than loafing about or watching Netflix due to a lockdown-induced excess of free time.

Another way of looking at this is the opportunity to reclaim your sovereignty—controlling your own life, to some extent—from the corporate hordes that we buy our stuff from. Throughout most of human history, people have had to grow their own food if they were not rich.

Until the 20th century, most people in the world had to grow their own food, barter for other products, or sell products in order to buy essentials such as salt, candles, medicines, shoes, etcetera. Subsistence farming and/or hunting have been the predominant way of life for most people worldwide for millennia. We tend to forget that this was the case and that it is still the case for billions of people today.

Gardening on your own patch (owned or rented) gives you agency over your own life (if you don’t have to give most of it away to a feudal landlord). In history, there were only two types of gardening: agriculture for food (which the rich did not participate in) and gardening for pleasure, which was the sole preserve of the wealthy.

Even in ancient Sumer and Egypt, the wealthy had gardens, or sacred temples had gardens dedicated to the gods. As time progressed, the garden has been a symbol of wealth and power, perhaps most powerfully expressed by the royal gardens at the Palace of Versailles in France or the semi-mythical Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Up until the mid-20th century, only the wealthy could garden for pleasure. Most people had practical gardens full of fruit, vegetables, and herbs, with only a few ornamental plants with no culinary function. Now, most of us, in the West at least, do not have to grow our own food at all.

Peasant plots have disappeared pretty much, but colonial gardening has left its mark on the world, with opulent gardens still here, both private and public. However, at least now, many of us ordinary people have the option of creating gardens for pleasure instead of out of necessity.

Even so, times are getting harder and more uncertain. Like the “victory gardens” of World War II, we may see a comeback of the practical garden. This is great for our food security and all the other benefits I mentioned at the beginning of this article, but it is also great for the planet.

Biodiversity loss is a serious problem, and monoculture farming has had a terrible effect on bees, our primary pollinator, and wildlife in general. So, by getting out into the garden and planting a large variety of plants (even if it is selfishly feeding your belly), it will be of benefit to bees and a whole host of other creatures.

Attitudes toward the garden and nature, in general, are beginning to change, thank goodness. It was part of speeding up this sea-change that I wrote The Druid Garden, intended as a practical guide to a more enlightened approach to the garden and how best to make it work for Earth and us.

Whether you’re interested in that or not, getting into your garden is a good idea. We all need fresh air, exercise, sunlight (in moderation), and it is also a good place to socialize, weather permitting.

So why not get away from the couch, the laptop, phone, or whatever, and go out into glorious nature?

Grow your own free food. It is also a chance to stick it to the corporate food vendors, and you’ll be helping both yourself and the environment!


Image source: Benjamin Combs


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