15 Life Lessons I Learned By Growing an Edible Garden
Let me say from the onset that I do not have a green thumb even though my mother seems to be able to successfully grow anything and everything that she chooses. I was always attracted to the romanticism associated with growing my own food and maintaining my own edible garden. In the last few years, I have learned to grow my own herbs, spices and vegetables despite my initial trepidation. Little did I know how educational and satisfying my modest food garden would be for me!
Here is what I learned and derived from my efforts:
1. Conquering Fear and Reluctance
Before I planted a few varieties of herbs and spices, I was doubtful that I could successfully grow anything. I had tried in the past and everything I planted died prematurely. It was very discouraging and I gave up any notions of being able to cultivate a cactus, let alone vegetables, herbs and spices. However, I decided to try again and am so happy that I did because I was much more successful the second time around. I conquered my fear and overcame my reluctance.
2. Learning From Mistakes
I made many amateurish mistakes the first time I tried to grow my edible garden. I over-watered some plants and under-watered others. Some received too little sunlight and others received too much. I had failed to realize the first time around that different plants have different needs. Before my second attempt, I utilized the vast amount of gardening resources online and researched the needs of the different plants and herbs I wanted to grow. This made all the difference because it helped me learn from my prior mistakes.
3. Practicing Responsibility and Discipline
Once I planted a few varieties of plants, herbs and vegetables, I had to take responsibility for them and nurture them. I had to make sure the garden received adequate water and sunlight. I also had to watch out for pests and diseases that can decimate a plant in no time. Even if I sometimes did not feel like doing it, I still had to take responsibility for what I planted and ensure they were receiving the proper care. I had to be responsible for the garden and care for it diligently.
4. Having Patience
One of the most difficult aspects of growing your own edible plants and vegetables is learning to be patient. I could hardly contain my excitement as I watched the garden flourish and waited for it to ‘bear fruit’. Initially, it was tough waiting for the first tomato to ripen or the basil plant to get mature enough to harvest. I had to be patient.
Despite my initial research, a few of the plants I planted did not flourish as I had hoped. After reading about some of the typical problems associated with growing each plant and vegetable, I managed to solve the problems and the plants started thriving as I had hoped. I did not get frustrated because I knew there were solutions to any issues I had. I did not give up and learned to persevere.
6. Enjoying Quiet and Solitude
My home garden helped me develop a ritual. Every morning, I would wake up, go outside into the garden and tend to the plants. It was my quiet time and it was wonderful to spend the time alone pulling out weeds that seemed to have sprung overnight, inspecting the leaves, watering the plants, etc. It was almost as if tending to the plants had a meditative quality. I learned to cherish this quiet and solitude.
7. Relaxing and Relieving Stress
I soon realized that my gardening endeavours helped me relax and it helped counteract the stresses of the day. My mind was at ease and I did not worry about anything else while I was nurturing the plants. My mind focused on the present moment because the garden almost demanded it. I learned how relaxing gardening could be and how the simple things in life can be enjoyable.
One of the unexpected benefits of planting and maintaining my edible garden was the amount of exertion and exercise it demanded. Transferring soil, replanting seedlings, trimming, pruning, and carrying a heavy watering can, etc, all require some physical activity. I taxed muscles that I did not even know existed. I had no idea that gardening is a good form of exercise.
9. Appreciating Nature’s Beauty
As I tended daily to my garden, I began to become aware of the inherent and intrinsic beauty that plants and nature have to offer. I watched as a seed became a seedling and then a plant. I marveled at the plant’s ability to grow and produce flowers, which eventually became a fruit, etc. It was truly amazing to witness the beauty of nature right in front of my eyes. It taught me to look for beauty all around me.
10. Finding Meaning and Satisfaction
Because I had toiled to cultivate my modest garden, it had a special meaning to me. I realized that this meaning would not have been evident had I not made the effort in the first place. I had a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It is the same with anything in life that requires effort, like running a marathon. The meaning and satisfaction are derivatives of doing something challenging. My garden, albeit small, had meaning to me and was extremely satisfying, especially when it was time to reap what I sowed.
11. Tasting Food the Way it Was Meant to Taste
There is nothing more exciting than harvesting your own vegetables and herbs that you cultivated and nurtured. The tomatoes were sweet, juicy and plump. The basil was a beautiful bright green in color. The Jamaican thyme had a flavor that I had never before encountered. The mint had a fresh pungency that did not exist in store-bought mint. Because they were grown in organic soil, were tended to with love and care, and were harvested at the optimum time, they were bursting with flavor. This is how food is supposed to taste as prescribed by nature.
12. Practicing Good Health and Nutrition
Because there were no harmful pesticides used and they were grown in rich organic soil, I knew that the produce I harvested was healthy and nutritious. I did not have to worry about genetically modified organisms (GMO), chemicals, and the like. It felt great being able to nourish myself and my family with healthy, organic food.
13. Saving Money
Everyone knows that the cost of organic fruits and vegetables sold in the grocery store can be exceedingly high. This is a huge barrier for many people who prefer safe, organic food. By growing my own produce, I realized a huge savings in my grocery bill.
14. Reducing Food Waste
A little known fact about growing your own fruits and and vegetables is that it cuts back on food waste. I was throwing away less food because I was only harvesting what I needed. I did not need to buy a package of 6 tomatoes when I could simply harvest 2 from the tomato vine. The same held true for all the other vegetables, herbs and spices I grew. If there was an excess, I simply harvested them and froze or pickled it for later use. I also would make delicious sauces that I could store. Being less wasteful is a lesson that can be applied to many aspects in life.
15. Being Environmentally Friendly
Because I was harvesting my own produce and not buying it from the grocery store, I negated the need for plastic and other forms of packaging, thereby helping reduce my impact on the environment. It felt great not having to come home with a stash of plastic bags and paper packaging. Growing your own food also helps cut back on transportation fuel which is one of the most damaging factors for our environment. Taking care of the environment is another way of taking care of yourself and your future.
I highly encourage everyone to try growing their own food garden. Even if you do not have a lot of space, it is still possible to grow wonderful produce with some planning using modern technology. Not only will you be afforded some of the best tasting fruits and vegetables you have ever sampled, it also will provide you with so many other benefits that you will never regret it. And you will learn many life lessons from your edible garden!