I haven’t planted a vegetable garden in several years.
This isn't a confession; it’s a response to something I saw on Facebook today. A page I follow about feeding your family posted that “gardening isn’t as hard as you might think. Once you have a couple of basics under your belt, it really isn’t very hard.”
But my reality is different: I had a backyard garden for years, and it was hard for me. But the first year I didn’t plant a vegetable garden, I felt like a failure. Here I was, writing every day about the virtues of good food, yet I wasn't growing my own, even though I have a big backyard.
But that voice kept on talking: “Considering what I write about, I should garden and I should love it.”
I’m over that initial feeling of failure, and when I read that Facebook post this morning, I thought it would be good to share my thoughts with those who don’t grow their own food. There’s no shame in it.
Here’s why I quit vegetable gardening:
I never broke even with my vegetable garden. Both my neighbors use no chemicals in their yards, and I don't either. Our little middle of the block is a haven for squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, birds and a very fat woodchuck. These critters are so charming early in the morning when I sit outside to drink my coffee. They are less charming when they use my vegetable garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet. I spent considerable time and money trying to naturally critter-proof my garden. Nothing worked. One year, we built a wooden frame with layers of netting all around. It certainly kept me out, but the squirrels and the chipmunks found their way in.
I didn’t enjoy vegetable gardening. For me, it was a chore. I know people who find edible and ornamental gardening relaxing and meditative. I don’t. I tried for years to convince myself that the chore was worth it, especially because of what I write about every day.
I only have so much time. The garden was very time-consuming. My family didn’t enjoy gardening any more than I did, so it ended up being a solitary activity for me. I would prefer to spend solitary time doing something relaxing and meditative like writing in my journal or reading a book.
I love going to the farmers market and pick-your-own fields. I find going to the farmers market relaxing. I feel invigorated when I’m at the market. I like talking to the farmers and the artisans. Even when I had my own vegetable garden, I went to the farmers market weekly and spent money. I also find it fun to go to a farm and pick strawberries or apples — especially when someone else has done all the work to grow them. I finally realized that the best use of my money was to not waste it on a garden that produced very little. Instead, I made the choice to give the hardworking farmers my money in exchange for the food they grow.
I realized that it doesn’t matter if the seasonal produce I feed my family comes from my own backyard or from the local farmers who farm organically and naturally. For my family, it makes sense to not garden. We don’t eat any worse because of it.
If you love gardening and find it makes sense for you, that’s great. If, like me, you don’t quite break even financially but the activity of gardening brings you joy, I say it's money well spent.
But, if you find no joy and no benefits from a vegetable garden, and you have access to healthy produce you can afford from the farmers market or grocery store, I think it’s silly to listen to that voice inside your head that says, “I should...”