I garden because I’m the “baby of the family.” A term which, by the way, I’ve loathed since childhood. Call me the youngest. Call me the last child born. Heck, call me an unexpected surprise. But don’t call me the baby of the family.
This seemingly harmless designation has not only defined who I am, but why I do the things I do. And gardening is definitely one of those things. So how did being the baby of the family push me into gardening? For this, I have to dig deep within myself to find the motivation which drives me to garden.
Why I Garden
Labels in a garden are wonderful things. They let us know which variety of peppers reside in each row. By labeling our plants, we come to learn which cultivars we love and which don’t do so well in our small plot on the planet. Labels define where carrots should be sprouting and where radish seeds reside. Knowing which seedlings to expect is helpful when distinguishing our beloved sprouts from sprouting weeds.
Putting labels on people is not such a wonderful thing. It takes away our individuality and puts us in a group to which we may or may not belong. Labeling me as the baby of the family did just that. Once I was past the infant stage, this seemingly innocent label made me feel like I’d never be able to truly grow up. And what exactly is growing up? It’s the process of acquiring independence.
I could say I garden because it gives me an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Or I might claim to garden because it saves money on vegetables and gives my family better-tasting and healthier produce. As a homeowner, I could also claim colorful and attractive landscaping improves the curb appeal and value of my property.
Independence and Self-Sufficiency
I could say all those things are the reason I garden, because in small ways they are true. But when I reach way down inside myself for the quantitative reason I garden, I discover that gardening gives me independence. Independence from commercialized food distribution, independence from price gouging, independence from defined grocery store hours.
Independence from the need to rely on others in order to feed myself and my family. Gardening gives me a way to be self-sufficient. And isn’t self-sufficiency an aspect of independence? Isn’t this what drives a child to walk, talk and dress themselves without help?
Do you remember the joy you felt as a child when your parents let you cross the street for the first time by yourself? How about the first time you rode your bike out of their direct line of vision or went to the movies with friends instead of adult chaperones?
That’s what it’s like.