The Philosophy of Gardening: Why Grow Your Own Food?

11 Mar

People ask me why I bother growing my own food. After all, fruit and vegetables are so cheap these days. I live in the city just a block from a supermarket. Why waste my time?

Having grown up in the countryside, my answer is simple: “Why not?” Modern life is busy, hectic, packed. Every advert on TV boasts to shave another few seconds off a task that is already achieved ten times quicker than our parent’s generation could do it. Everywhere people are mainlining coffee and popping pills like PacMan to get them through their week, then wondering why they can’t sleep on weekends and have a heart attack at age 40.

Call me old school, but I think it’s time to slow down.

Getting Something For Nothing

Growing your own food isn’t just about learning to relax. It’s about re-learning that most of modern life is governed by a set of arbitrary rules which simply don’t exist in Nature.

For example. You can’t get something for nothing. Right? But if you plant some seeds in your garden, Nature cheerfully sticks up a middle finger at that assumption and shows you the exact opposite. You can grow a hundred dollar’s worth of crops with seeds that cost a couple of pennies. You can grow an orange tree that will give you fifty pounds of flavorful, juicy fruit every summer for sixty years with the pips from a single orange that most of us would toss away in the garbage.

NatashaRhodes_GrowFood

Gardening teaches you to enjoy things that you may have previously been taking for granted. You become less wasteful, and more appreciative, when you’ve spent twelve months watching a bud on the orange tree outside your window become a flower in January, a little green golf ball in June, and an excitingly pale yellow globe in Autumn.

When you finally pick that fruit in December, you truly appreciate it. You don’t watch TV while you’re eating it, you don’t bolt it while you’re running out the door to work. You take the time to sit down and savor every bite. The tree busted it’s ass for a whole year making that apple, and you watched it every step of the way, so you’d better not take one bite then toss it away! Sure, an apple costs 20 cents from the store, but if the tree could set a price for a year of its hard work, it would be much higher.

Natural Selection

Growing your own fruit and veg opens your eyes in many other ways that you might not expect. As a computer nut with a keen interest in scientist, I am amazed every single day that Life exists and that it knows how to make more of itself. Mankind in all his high-tech, big-brained, opposable-thumb-bearing glory cannot replicate even the most basic functions of life in an inanimate object. Our robots are hysterical and hopeless. It’s taken scientists twenty years to create an artificial worm that kinda-sorta-not-really can do everything a real worm can do.

And yet you accidentally drop a tiny apple pip on the ground and in twenty years – BOOM! There’s a forty-foot tall apple tree gleefully wrapping its roots around your water mains and causing havoc with your neighbor’s boundary issues. Nobody programmed that tree or told it to grow leaves on its branches and not the other way around. It just did it, all by itself. I’m not religious but if that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

Starting Over

In spring, I love the themes of renewal and fresh life that you find in every garden in every town, and with it comes fresh hope. Every time a new green shoot bursts up out of bare ground, making something from nothing, it is like a tiny achievement. A little battle has been won. In the inner cities, you don’t get to see the knock-kneed Spring lambs and the Easter foals that put a smile on your face, like you do each day in the countryside. But in the tiniest plot of earth in a city garden, even the oldest, most battle-scarred tree will drop its tattered and torn leaves and push out beautiful new shoots as soon as the last frost of winter is over. The tree is renewed, ready to face another year. You can’t help but feel a tiny spark of hope for yourself, too.

If you have been through a hardship in your life or battled with uncertainty, growing your own food is a great hobby because it helps to restore your faith in Life. Nature is the world’s oldest and wisest teacher. She teaches you that whatever you put into your garden, you are guaranteed to get out (unlike most other things in life, which – let’s face it – are a coin-toss at best). You plant a row of beans – you get beans all summer. You fertilize the soil – your plants grow noticeably bigger. You check each morning for bugs – your crops flourish while all your neighbor’s crops die. It’s not rocket science but amid the turmoil of modern life, having one certainty to lean on is very comforting.

Homegrown Love

And yes – if you have ever grown and eaten your own produce, you will know that it tastes a hundred times better than anything you can buy at a supermarket. An orange from the store may have been frozen or chilled a dozen times before it hits your plate. You can almost hear the flavor screaming as the oranges are dragged into the supermarket chilling room. You pull an orange off your own tree on a warm summer’s afternoon, you will taste the difference. The taste of a fresh sun-warmed orange that you’ve grown yourself is something that you will never forget.

Modern life places a lot of demands on us. Growing your own food gets you back to the basics, and helps us remember our own roots in Nature. That’s a lesson that we can all learn from.

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