‘why do you garden?’ nears 100 comments

martagon2ANOTHER POST IS NEAR THE CENTURY MARK, our second in 7 months here on A Way to Garden. The first was Garden No-No’s; now here comes ‘Why Do You Garden?’ to challenge its lead. Why do you garden? Is it for astonishing plants like these Martagon lilies, or for solace in troubled times, or for fresh food to stash in the freezer to get you through a long winter’s nap? All good reasons, but perhaps they are not yours. So what is it? Won’t you tell us?

October 25, 2008


  1. Dave says

    Its an obsession,…no…it goes deeper than that. It’s part of who I am. If it grows, I love it! As with a previous post that I was reading,..I can’t stand throwing away cuttings or seeds or plants. It just breaks my heart. Of course it gives my other gardening friends an outlet for their extras and un-neededs.”What shall we do with these? I know give them to Dave, he wont turn anything down!” It has made for a very wide variety of plant material in my gardens though!

    • says

      Welcome, Dave. Did you say obsession? Hmmm….that might sound a little familiar. Though my mentor taught me years ago to “bury my dead” quickly and move on, to not torture things or be tortured by the plants that need to be composted. Hard lesson, and sometimes I break down and hold onto things I don’t need/shouldn’t bother with. But yes, if it grows, I love it, too. Thanks for starting 2009 with us here.

  2. says

    Why do I garden? Might as well ask “Why do I breathe?” Because I can’t live without it. It’s probably all the generations of Irish and Scots subsistence farmers before me struggling to get out of one Australian/American 70-year-old. My grandmother used to tell the story of how I knew the names of all the plants in her garden by the time I was six, and knew how to care for them too. I never think of myself as an obsessive personality, but I suspect that my garden is an obsession with me, and when it comes to acquiring plants for it, I know no scruples…. well, I have never actually STOLEN anything, but I have been awfully tempted.

    And I know — I am tuning in really really late to this thread, but I have just discovered this wonderful place!

  3. says

    For me, it’s like going to Church. I have other things I could be doing and always short on time, but I can’t resist the “calling”. I think I inherited the “calling” from my father who gardened from sun up to sun down for many years after he retired. When he passed away unexpectedly, he was in his garden. I can’t understand how anyone can NOT be a gardener! My spirits soar when I am in my garden and close to nature.
    P.S. The woodfrogs (AKA peepers) have been singing in RI for several weeks now while others have graced our small pond with their egg-filled sacks.

    • says

      Welcome, SusanB, and yes, “Hallelujah!” is how I feel about gardening, too. Thanks for the story about your father, and give the peepers my best.

  4. Maria says

    I love gardening as well, and picking up what I produce and serving it at my table. And adorning my home with flowers from my garden. I grow tomatoes and strawberries and carrots. Roses, peonies, violets, hidrangeas. Gardening is all about love and life. Energy and happiness. Giving thanks for the glory of a new flower or butterfly.

  5. Catherine says

    I garden for a few simple reasons – a meal from my garden give me a sense of accomplishment, contemplation, and meditation. I create my own healing spaces…

  6. Lisa says

    I garden for mental health reasons…In the garden, digging in the dirt, strolling down the paths and looking at what’s in bloom, picking tomatoes to make a yummy tomato sandwich…gardening gives me a great sense of purpose and the feeling of being in touch with nature and with myself. It’s a very spiritual experience for me.

  7. woody plant girl says

    I garden in memory. Memory of my father, memory of scents of childhood, and a deeper memory of connection to the earth.

  8. Mitza says

    I garden to feed the animals, the earth, and myself. Since I moved to this 7.8 acre field that had been turned into a small house with large lawn, I’ve planted hundreds of trees, flowers, and shrubs. There was already a hedgerow with nut trees, oak, cherries, nannyberries and others that I have augmented with witch hazel, black cherry, sassafras, silky dogwood, white oak and evergreens. In the lawn I’ve planted seven grape vines, 4 cherry trees, pear, peach, nectarine, many mountain ash, American plum, Washington hawthorn, currants, gooseberry, sand cherry, crab apple, red twig dogwood and elderberries, that I can think of.

    I started a large flower garden that the birds, rabbits and deer love. Last year I had two fawns born there. I leave all the seeds on for the winter and birds find shelter there. I have 22 bird boxes and every year bluebirds raise two families here, plus I have many birds I can and cannot identify who return every year to have their families. I’ve had a pond dug and at night I sleep to the songs of green frogs, peepers, wood frogs, tree frogs and American toads. They are surprisingly noisy.

    I do all of this on a small budget. Yesterday I planted 6 blueberries and 3 serviceberries, but I have many more already planted in the field and still more to go. I’ve planted mulberries, nanking cherry, more oaks and other trees and shrubs I get from Soil & Water Conservation. The plants are very small, but inexpensive. Because of the deer, I build poultry wire cages around every native shrub and tree, because they like to eat them best.

    I have two vegetable gardens: one small one next to the house for herbs, swiss chard, snap peas, bush beans, and catnip. I have sunk a blue juice barrel in the middle of it in which two large, orange goldfish thrive all year-round. The larger garden is farther from the house and every year as I dig up the sod, turn it over to dry and then shake the dirt loose from the weeds, I say: “This is too hard. I don’t want to do this anymore,” but almost immediately I plan for next year’s larger garden and I have laid out two 12 x 16 tarps to kill the sod so I can dig it up more easily.

    Then a neighbor will rototill it and I will put lime and compost on it and plant. I use a dehydrator, can and freeze the produce and love the work and process and the eating all winter. I drive 7 foot fenceposts and fence the whole garden with 5 foot poultry wire. All this is a lot of hard work and sometimes I resent/regret it, but as long as I am physically able, I want to do this for love of the earth and the animals. My acreage is truly a refuge and I am lucky with next door forests and shrubby fields that provide the amphibians and birds and small mammals with what they need to survive well.

    • says

      Welcome, Mitza. I guess I do not have to convince you about the wonders of gardening with wildlife (though I tend to ask the deer to leave and stay outside the fence). Thanks for your beautiful description of your place, and I hope you will visit us again soon.

  9. ayo says

    Every living thing has seasons, cycles, stages, strengths, sensitivities–characteristics we can nurture but not control.
    Nobody would ever have described me as easy-going. But gardening has changed me…it has taught me patience and serenity. Nothing else has ever been able to do that.

    • says

      Welcome, ayo. I need to spend more time out there meditating while weeding, your comment makes me realize. Lately, with some much computer time, I am not feeling so centered as I should. Thanks for stopping in and tapping me on the shoulder about it, even if accidentally. :)

  10. marj says

    “those who plant gardens plant happiness” I cross-stitched that for a frame. it was found in a catalog one winter and it kept me busy until spring.
    I have a city garden. 60 some pots of growing plants on my dock. I overwinter half of them on a ledge with a south window at the top of the elevator shaft.
    Really though, I was raised in the country. My love of all things growing came from my mother and great grandmother.
    I love growing herbs and vegetables that are used all through the seasons. Friends coming over for a grill out and clipping what we use for seasoning right then.
    It’s my peace, my tranquility, even if I am smack dab in the middle of my city.
    (just to share my pain, we had a hail storm 2 nights ago and my poor garden is shredded. I spent the last day clipping leaves and stems that were damaged. it will revive itself, but it looks so naked now. (thanks for letting me get that out))
    Being able to grow anything green makes me one of the luckiest people on the planet.

    • says

      Welcome, Marj. Hail damage here, too, which combines with the slug damage to make for a very interesting season. Think I am going to the 50 percent off sale this weekend at the local nursery to see what I can scare up for a few key spots. Your contained garden sounds lovely; thanks for the comment, and the visit. Do come again soon.

  11. says

    Why in the world do I want to garden when I am probably the only person around who can actually kill a squash plant? I found this blog thanks to that nifty piece a year or so ago in the NY Times. I remembered Margaret from Martha Stewart’s Living and so I investigated her site. I found Away to Garden so inspiring that I planted a late but bountiful garden last year. Over the Christmas holidays my wife and I read a number of books about organic produce (To Buy or Not To Buy Organic), the food industry (In Defense of Food), and lost foods. We decided the only way we can have any real control over what we’re eating is if we grow it ourselves. And so began this journey of two city gals, with partially black thumbs, and our quest to grow enough vegetables (and hopefully fruit) to sustain ourselves and our 6 year old daughters. This blog has been such a great resource. It’s inspirational and is also a wonderful place to start when trying to figure out what’s what in my garden. Thanks to you Margaret and to everyone who participates! I’m proud to say that over here in our little urban organic garden, our thumbs are getting greener each day!

  12. Mary Jane Pagan says

    I garden to Love:
    Mom and her treasured flowering quince.Dad and his roses,which Mom arranged.Grandpa Harry, who had a heart attack in his summer garden.Dave who died,and Zeta who still gardens.Les who loved flowers.Ginger who loved flowers & herbs.Nancy & Steve and hope their garden gives them love.Bec & Joe who love their garden. Spark and Marie who love theirs and the creatures.

    I was lonely.Brought back a small garden, felt happy;then a much larger garden came, out of memory and gratitude.Now happiness is shared;by those walking by, or friends visiting.By creatures visiting & feeding. I’m never lonely now. I love to garden; I garden to love.
    Mary Jane, Reiki Garden Girl

  13. Jo Ann says

    Gardening is my escape from the world here I come to hide from all my stresses or at least I try to hide …it never seems to fail I am always hunted down and asked some annoying question like “what’s for dinner?” or “I need you inside for a moment I just HAVE to show you something I saw on the internet”….. I’m looking into some camouflaged clothing.

    By the way great website… :^)

    • says

      Welcome, Jo Ann. Camouflaged clothing sounds like the answer (and made me laugh). Great idea. See you soon again, and thank you for the encouragement.

  14. aunt sadie says

    We left downtown Chgo to raise two boys on 3 acres in Lisle IL .. my only plant experience was buying fresh wheat grass for my cats from the produce section … now ten years later, I’ve planted & moved hundreds & hundreds of perennials & gave up on the annuals but now discovering vegetables & adoring all the living things that abound in my gardens…. now the garden is so full I can share oodles with others …. Bless the Sweet Sun, Sultry Shade, Rolling Rain, Wonderful Worms & Mother Nature for my Daily View…

    • says

      Welcome, Aunt Sadie. Sounds like a great and fruitful move, to say the least. And the view: isn’t that just the very best part? I could stare and stare (and do). See you soon. –Aunty Margaret.

  15. Deb says

    To see the green. Born/raised in Az, moved to Oregon in my late 30’s and had SO much fun growing pretty much whatever I wanted. Retired, now back in Az caring for aging mother and back to brown…worst part of this mission. Lots of plants in pots, but it’s not the same – I miss green…

    • says

      Welcome, Deb. I would miss green, too, as much as I am inspired by the light and other colors of the American desert. Though I would not miss it enogh to grow a lawn there, which always struck me as odd when I’d visit…all those lawns where they shouldn’t be. Hope to see you soon again; will try to have enough green here for an imaginary garden moment anytime to share. :)

  16. lynn druskat says

    why do you garden? perhaps i have to go back to the beginning for that, having my own garden as a child, learning patience, to sit and be quiet and let nature unfold, to coax the wild things to come a little closer, perhaps that was the beginning, then, the food, the freshness, laying under a tree eating a warm sun ripened peach, juice running down the arms, just being there, totally there. I guess in the end that is what keeps bringing me back to the garden for almost 50 years now. The beauty, the joy of feeding the family, growing flowers for the birds and brides, to share the bounty, to become grounded, to learn and explore new plants, new partners, to keep my brain happy, that is why i garden, it is second nature, like walking, breathing, eating. I would love to see everyone develop some connection with the earth, what a wonderful place this would be, maybe it would replace war. peace, lynn

  17. LiriopePisces says

    It started in second grade. The teacher had each child in the class insert dried beans and moist paper towels in plastic baggies and place them flat in the classroom windowsill. I was absolutely amazed when the bean swelled and then burst open, roots stretching below and green leaves stretching above. It was like magic. I believe that is why I garden…nature for me is measurable magic. Great blog.

  18. Ann says

    Love your garden from Garden Conservancy visits, loved your talk at Plant-o-rama at BBG this week and your blog is a new delight to someone who also gardens in zone 5.

  19. Carol says

    Why do I garden? I usually ask myself that some question every August–95+degs., bugs etc. (south Alabama) But I’m always right back at it. I think I’m just addicated to dirt!

    • says

      Welcome, Carol. “Addicted to dirt” sounds like a good explanation. I wonder the same thing in our often hot, steamy Augusts, too, when it’s time to mow, and mow some more. Hope to see you soon again.

  20. Susie says

    Hi Margaret,

    I remember years ago seeing you on Martha’s TV show and thinking what a very knowledgeable person you are; always wonderful “nuggets” of information on plants.
    I am new to this site but I always have lots of questions so count me in. I live in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver BC

  21. Jill says

    I love this blog. I have had a slow day at work and have enjoyed my time reading about all kinds of things. The pictures of your garden are tremedous. It reminds me that I need to purchase a new camera so I can take some pics of my garden like yours. I live on a 2.5 acre plot that was owned previously by a master gardener. My yard is ever changing. That is why I garden. I like to see the evolution of the plants during the year.

    • says

      Welcome, Jill. I plan to get a new camera, too, but have hesitated and hesitated…but think I am about to make a decision. Thanks for your positive encouragement about the blog; I am glad to have you here with us. Do come again soon, and tell us how it’s going on your plot (same size as mine!).

    • says

      Welcome, Naseer (and Emily…I went and checked and found her name). :) I am really impressed by your seed-starting setup especially. Wow. I am glad to “meet you and hope since you are not far away that we will meet in person at some garden event here this year. See you soon!

  22. Pat says

    Hi Margaret!
    I’m so glad I came across your blog. What a treasure it is.
    I garden for all the reasons already mentioned, it is good therapy & keeps me sane I practically live outdoors all spring, summer & fall, then I gradually wither away in the cold days of winter.
    I took up gardening seriously after all my children were grown, & gone on their own. I first started a memory garden when I lost a loved one, and just kept making more flower beds all over my property. Of course I have a vegetable garden every year too, and herbs to cook with.

    • says

      Welcome, Pat. You are very kind, thank you. Your story is not unlike mine; I started gardening in my 20s, when my mother was very ill. I hope that I will see you again soon here.

  23. wkeithscott says

    Hi ALL: Reg..Kid’s at mid-48’s or so given summertime fun, OT., ON at an Glebe Collegiate simple school yard, teacher’s project, [for year’s] to learn gardening. Dozen’s of uncles, aunts, Mom – encourage’d me, anurban lad. To go there, did, and learned much, that radishes/carrot’s didn’t come in bunch’s, and took an ribbing for an long time, ‘fun eh’.
    Stimuli, for gardening everywhere, then landscape garening my precedent later interest, less cottage influences, and highway driving..kept me in the ‘backyard haven’ of an good perrenial garden world of our own.
    So, daily if need or interest prevails…I can walk out the back home door, and start on some small, or varied interest therem [to-gether], merely at no extra cost, not petrol, no second real estate taxes, etc etc, far away.
    As well, my computer, has the best gardening pictures saved to my interests, near 365 day’s, which I study the names, & beauty, for betterment, appreciation.
    4 Season’s, is the greatest nature ‘kicker’ I’ve seen, why so…I try hard to replicate, in ‘4 small O/S garden room’s’, small tri-pond’s, and an dozen meandering path’s.
    Called here, Tryptich Path’s Garden. Not much, just an little plot, just an little tyme, in time and space. It seem’s like it’s alway’s, an ‘New Beginning’.
    Zone 5, colder winter climate, this Canada, but late February…still, warm enough for some major, eventful garden work.
    I could more easily have said: Joy, Joy, Joy.
    Up here, we call those…Muskoka Chairs.
    Sit, Sit, Sit….and enjoy the ambiance.
    I do exactly, at 5:00 pm, everyday, need or not.
    And look over the expanse, of the precious little place, and wonder, pawn is God using me, [us] to show off his beauty.
    If so, then why does nobody come by!
    The echo, they wish to drive, drive far away, so be it.


    Sign, k +

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