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A Guide to Gardening

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

What’s the point of gardening? Why shouldn’t we just get our vegetables from the grocery store or better, online? What’s the point of plants? The world looks so much better and is so much easier to maintain if it’s paved. Why shouldn’t we just grow our food in labs? Why does my neighbor have to grow all those flowers? They give me seasonal allergies.

First of all, you should probably get those allergies checked by a doctor. Next, let’s talk about food, flowers, seeds, and the most amazing substance in the whole world: dirt. Yup, you read that right. Dirt. Mostly composed of humus (sadly, not hummus!), rocks, sand, and clay, dirt nourishes and gives life to almost all plants with minerals, nutrients, and helpful microbes. The type of dirt you have dictates what type of plants you can grow. Adding different ingredients to the dirt can make it easier or harder for different plants to grow. All plants need a certain amount of water added to their soil. Both overwatering and underwatering can kill a plant. A factor to especially take note of is the number of hours of sunlight and overall climate of the location of the plant. Native plants, plants that are already accustomed to the climate and dirt type of an area, can be a good place to start when picking out plants to grow. Otherwise, experiment with different water amounts, seasons, and specific locations and eventually, you’ll develop an intuition on what to grow where and when.

When it comes to gardening, flowers usually come to mind. Native plants and wildflowers are definitely the way to go, but other varieties of flowers that require more love and attention are worth growing too. Some varieties are special because they only bloom at a certain time of day, have an amazing fragrance, or simply because of their vibrant colors. Again, experimenting with different varieties is crucial here, as some can be tougher to grow than others.

In addition to native plants and flowers, vegetables are extremely rewarding to grow. Hate vegetables? You’ll change your mind after you eat a peapod from a plant you grew from a seed (or an heirloom vegetable that you originally planted years ago and now save the seeds from every year). Not only do they taste better, they’re actually better for you because of naturally occurring enzymes and microbes. Enzymes that help break down the food you eat, which can have great effects on your health, and microbes from the dirt can add variety to your gut microbiome. Studies show that more variety of bacteria in your gut can have positive effects on not only your physical health, but also your mental health. We’re not the only ones who know about the greatness of vegetables, though. You may have heard many a gardener complain about pests who keep eating through their plants. You may encounter this struggle in your adventures as a gardener. However it is important to remember that the “pests” were here first. Your garden is their home. Sharing a portion of your harvest with them, whether they be excited squirrels, a flock of sparrows, or a line of ants, can be hard at first, but learning to live with them can make both your life and their lives a whole lot easier. Working with the land and the creatures who live there is known as permaculture. I suggest you research the subject a bit to find ways to balance the amount you harvest with the amount that you share.

Gardening is underrated. It has numerous health benefits such as stress relief, increased Vitamin D intake (from sunlight), and giving you access to a greater range of microbes. Digging in the dirt with your bare hands, a common gardening chore, is one of the only ways to access these microbes. Gardening is especially important because it is a way to give back to the planet. Not only do the leaves of plants cleanse our air of carbon dioxide, they also attract and give a habitat to wildlife that hasn’t adapted to paved cities yet. During this age of COVID-19, gardening has rapidly gained popularity. Hopefully, it retains this popularity for the years to come.

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