ACA Blog

Hope Yancey
Aug 18, 2011

Gardening Grows Good Things

Tomato plants have a particular smell. If you’ve planted them, you know. And there’s joy in tasting that first juicy tomato you’ve grown and placed on the kitchen counter to ripen. Better still? Letting it turn bright red on the vine and bringing it inside to rinse off and eat while it’s still warm from the sun. I’ve had a pretty decent crop of tomatoes, though they never got very large, just from the single Abe Lincoln heirloom seedling I grew in a big pot on the deck this year. I set it out thinking I’d be happy to get one tomato.

Summer will be drawing to a close soon, with August more than halfway over and the school buses practicing their runs. I’ve written before that I’m not a major fan of summer in comparison with other seasons, but I thoroughly savor the selection of fresh produce, locally grown. I enjoy making the produce stand and farmers’ market circuit on weekends, seeing what’s available.

I interviewed several talented gardeners this spring and summer for freelance newspaper articles. They garden for a living, as a hobby, for educational purposes and philanthropic reasons. They grow fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers or a combination. School and community gardens are cropping up everywhere in the city where I live and serve a variety of needs. Some people donate what they grow or sell it to fund a worthy cause. Garden clubs are thriving, too.

The current popularity of gardening may be attributed in part to the rise of urban farming. More folks are learning to can their own food, keeping bees in their yards, even raising hens for eggs. But I think there’s more to explain the rise of gardening than that: It’s downright peaceful. I know that’s true for me, gazing at my hanging basket of purple and yellow “Phantom” petunias or assortment of five hydrangeas in different colors. More than once someone has mentioned to me that they saw gardens as having therapeutic possibilities.

As places of beauty and interaction with nature, gardens are inherently relaxing and tension-relieving. There’s also the potential to raise self-esteem or help lift depression by realizing a bit of success at something. Gardening can be done as a solitary activity or socializing with others. Older adults, who may have more of an agricultural tradition, anyway, might benefit from feeling useful through having something to care for. Gardens can be made accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. Gardening is applicable to career counseling if it assists an individual in learning skills that may lead to a job. I know of jail inmates learning horticulture as a trade in a local vocational training program. Gardening could perhaps even be thought of as a “positive addiction.”

And gardens are not just for the warm months anymore, either. Plenty of new gardens are multi-season, intended to offer pleasure or sustenance year-round. So don’t put away that trowel just yet. I expect garden therapy is something we are going to hear more about in the future. I think I can dig that.
Hope Yancey is a counselor and freelance writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina

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