Gardening can change the world

Linda - Portland, Oregon
Entered on January 7, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: change, nature

This I Believe

Gardening transforms lives, and I believe gardeners can change the world. I’m lucky, I was taught to grow vegetables and make compost at an early age. But anyone can do it; gardening can be learned at any time of life. We can garden to grow our own food; we can garden to make the world a more beautiful place; we can garden to express our creativity, and these motivations are not mutually exclusive. Gardening encourages relationships—there’s nothing like the fellowship of other gardeners, and gardeners learn their best lessons from each other. Gardening can also be quiet and contemplative.

Being a horticulture instructor, I see gardening change people’s lives with every passing term. It empowers the young right out of high school, who want to learn a trade or craft that they can carry with them anywhere—I know young people who have put themselves through college by growing flowers and selling bouquets at farmers’ markets. I know a young woman who put herself through college selling home grown organic catnip. Gardening may not end up being a career, but it’s your ace in the hole.

For those in their middle years, pursuing a new “green collar” career means escaping an office to work outside, breathe fresh air, omit ties and socks. It enables the transition from a sedentary job (perhaps hunched over a dentist’s chair, picking teeth—we get a lot of fleeing dental technicians). Perhaps you’ve been laid-off. Now you have time to take your county’s Master Gardener classes. Here’s a story: In the classes you meet a local garden center manager. She hires you as temporary staff for the busy season, then you stay on as permanent help, and become the tools and supplies buyer.

It is possible to learn gardening by volunteering at a local public garden, or your local parks department. Maybe you know an elderly gardener who needs help, and will teach you how to divide plants or sow vegetables in exchange for some labor. Or volunteer at a school that has a garden. You may get to help kids grow their own food. Even if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can help gardeners keep crop inventories, write labels, research what plants or seeds to try. It is all part of gardening.

If you want to learn about climate change, ask a gardener, especially some one who has gardened in the same place for a long time. Gardeners can also tell you how to mollify climate change: Garden.

Gardening engenders responsibility. If you don’t water your plants, the result is all yours. If you don’t improve your soil, you won’t have healthy plants. Plants of all kinds are exquisite, forgiving, and elegantly alive, so don’t worry too much. Plant what you like to eat, or what you like to look at, or both. It’s your garden.