Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Gardening Worth It?

Yesterday our first garden/seed catalog arrived in the mail. Usually right on the cue with the Christmas cards, the garden companies begin marketing their products.  I know I'm a totally hopeless nut case when it comes to gardening but I just love sitting down with a handful of seed catalogs. I'll build towering dreams of next year's garden and scribble pages full of notes and garden plans.

But first there needs to be some time of reflection on last year's garden.

I like to take some time in November (or earlier) to think the past year. It is a time to ask questions.

What worked well?
What did not?
What do I want to plant again?
What do I NOT want to plant again?
How was the amount that was planted?
How can I minimize this year's problems?
How can I maximize this year's success?
What plant/variety/ technique do I want to try next year?
How can I get closer to my gardening goals?

I'm scribbling down notes from the past year and beginning a preliminary sketch for the garden.  But there is one overarching question this year, Is gardening worth it?

Many times this year you could have heard me say "If I knew it was going to be this dry, I wouldn't have planted a garden." And I thought I meant it. It was terribly discouraging to continually drag around the soaker hoses and choose which plants to water and which ones to let die.

I'm rather optimistic by nature. I'd think, "I'll water the garden one more time and surely this week we'll get rain". But we didn't. Or the next week. Or the next.

And honestly all the love of gardening somehow shriveled up with the parched ground.

Was gardening really worth it? Why am I doing this to myself?

If you read the 2010 Preserving list, you know that God abundantly provided. No, it wasn't the harvest I expected when I drew up my dreams in January. But the freezers and shelves are well-filled.

But  that list is only a small portion of our true garden harvest. For several months we ate almost all of our produce fresh from the garden. I have no way of knowing how many tomatoes, peppers, and onions we ate out of the garden - and that is just a start. We had a terrible potato and carrot crop and nothing to store - but we certainly ate quite a few meals from the meager crop there was.

The green beans never gave me enough to can - but I had several small plantings and for week after week after week we ate fresh green beans several times a week. If I picked more then we could eat for supper, I'd quickly steam the extras and put them in the freezer. So, I never picked a bucket full of beans, but I am so grateful for the beans we enjoyed all summer long.

This year I spent $189.00 on the garden. This includes all plants and seeds. It does not include the lime my husband put on the garden or the very rare chemical. This amount is higher then usual because we replaced our strawberry patch and extended the size and also bought some raspberry plants. This was a bad year for starting anything extra and they suffered through the drought but appear to have mostly survived. I'm guessing that many years I don't spend more then $75 for seeds and plants.

Of course, when you start talking dollars and cents, someone asks "But what about your time."

Yeah, what about it.  I'm just a mom. I have no desire to be out in a workplace bringing home a pay check so that I can afford to pay someone to mow my grass. I don't even have any real desire to make money at home - though some days I dream up crazy plans. My husband constantly encourages me that my frugal money stretching ways are a blessing to him and my family.

I don't know how many hours I spend in the garden. Or what my time is worth. Maybe if I hated gardening, those questions would be important to me. But then I'd also have to put a value on the benefit of fresh air and exercise.

So I'm not going to count the hours that I walk through my garden pulling a stray weed and choosing something tasty for supper. I'm not going to count the time spent watching a parasite wasp on a tomato worm with my children and talking about the wonders of God's creation. I'm going to enjoy the  cool summer evenings spent with my husband discussing the day while hoeing.

I don't have to tell you that $189.00 is very cheap for top quality produce for five months for a family of six who love vegetables. And I would hate to compare my vegetables to grocery store vegetables. At the most they may be eight hours old from the garden, usually only one or two. These are vegetables grown in fertile soil, enhanced by our own poultry compost, and picked at the peak of maturity. In the very few cases when chemicals are used in our garden, it was with utmost care and never on anything that would be consumed soon. Such as when our tiny green beans plants were being chewed off as soon as they appeared out of the ground and the only way to give them the boost to survive the first inch or two appeared to be spray.

Okay, writing this all out answered my question.

To me, where I live, in my stage of life, with my husband's encouragement and help - gardening is very worth it. You may come up with another conclusion but I'm going to relish each seed catalog that arrives and dream in full lush garden color about next year!


  1. I have had the same thoughts lately. Is it really worth it. But I came to the same conclusions you did. And I think this is THE earliest I've ever started thinking about next years garden in 25 years of gardening LOL We extended the garden this year and I'm beginning sketches in eager anticipation of 2011!

  2. Perhaps you didn't intend for this to be a "Thanksgiving" post, but it's probably one of the best I've read in a while on the subject. Woven in between the lines, thankfulness to the Lord of the Harvest, who provided it all, is there, and isn't that really what the first Thanksgiving was all about? Thankfulness for provision? Well said, Gina!

    Rare is the gardening year that produces everything in abundance without a struggle. If it's too hot for lettuce, it's just right for peppers. And visa versa. We are blessed to have "every seed after it's kind" that we desire so that when we garden, SOMETHING comes up from the soil. I believe God planned it just this way so that we never become independent of Him, but we experience His blessings and grace as well.

    From your CA friend who has to ALWAYS water ALL season long EVERY year... Blessed Thanksgiving to you and your family,

  3. I enjoyed reading your reflections. And I agree with you about your time - my husband does put a price on his time, but I do not put a price on my time. Makes for some interesting discussions (er, arguments) sometimes.

    I love the picture of you hoeing in the cool evening and talking.

  4. Great post. "What about your time?" What a great answer to a classic question ... almost as common as the "how do your kids get socialized if they don't go to public school?" question! And speaking of time, let's factor in the time you'd have to spend at the gym, at the grocery store, and trying to offset the negative effect of chemicals and pesticides from grocery store veggies ....

  5. We started our first garden together this year and i would say its very worth it as well!

  6. Oh I agree. I just made some green beans from my home canned green beans tonight and also made some corn from my freezer and I thought tonight that it was worth all of the work. It just is. Its just so much better. Of course thats just my opinion.

  7. I love gardening too! Home-grown food tastes so much better..it's great exercise..and I find it very therapeutic if I'm feeling stressed. I spend many hours talking with the Lord while I garden...and He spend as much talking with me :-)

    God bless you and your family.

    from, Julia (in New Zealand)

  8. A very good post! When you are doing something you love, there can be no cost attached to it.

    You are amazing, and your posts on the gardening, canning, and freezing were very inspiring. Please keep up the good work.

  9. What a wonderful "THANKSGIVING" post!! God is Good!
    It's all worth it especially looking at your shelves in the winter and you don't have to go to the store for those items.Not to mention chemical free... Happy Thanksgiving my new friend..I'm thankful for you and your blog.Glad I found it this year. Simplicity is a great blessing!!I get renewed everytime I read it!! THANK YOU!!!

  10. What a lovely post! I agree, agree, agree. I do work full time, but my husband, who is disabled spends lots more time playing in the dirt than me. We spend 2 full days preparing and planting. A quick pass through now and then to keep the weeds at bay while the baby veggies are taking off. After that it's smooth sailing until harvest. Mr. D wasn't well during harvest, so I did spend much more time harvesting than usual. I just finished the beets last weekend getting them into the freezer. We had a wonderful growing season and wonderful yeild and I love being in the garden. I guess you just have to love it, otherwise it is not worth it. If a garden is only going to be a stressful activity, I'd say support your local farmers at the market, but if you do love it... go for it. The benefits far outweigh the effort and what money is put into it. We save seeds too, so that helps lots with the cost. We have some interesting squash from our saved seed... our own "breed" of squash, but all good. We ate one last night that looked like an green butternut. Must have been from some old seed, but there were no viable seeds in it, so we won't have that again. It was tasty anyway.

    Hope you're feeling better.

    Thanks for sharing such a lovely post. Helps me get through the winter... thinking of spring and planting.

  11. Amen, Gina- your words are music to my soul! There's no price needed to encourage me to want to spend time out enjoying God's creation and seeing the miracle of what becomes of a tiny seed. :-)

    Have a lovely holiday!


  12. I am on the same page as you, I can't wait for the seed catalogs to come in the mail, I too dream big and often on a great garden and shelves full of gardeny goodness!! For me its worth it, even with this years garden going to pot, the anticipation of next years garden is already there. I look at it this way, when your favorite football team has a horrible season, a true fan doesn't just jump ship and start rooting for another team they support their team no matter what, when you've had a horrible day you don't go to bed thinking oh I'll just cancel tomorrow because after a day like today whats the point, You realize that tomorrow is a new day, a new begining and full of promise. So yeah its worth it!!

  13. I admire you so much! Next summer it would be fun to come over and see your big garden, hang out, maybe help pull some weeds or something. (My kids LOVE pulling weeds!)

    Hey, I made your pumpkin cheescake with chocolate (?) recipe for our Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday... delicious! Thanks!

  14. You have very nicely expressed how many of us think but do not express.My first seed catalog came two weeks ago. I took me back as I am still canning apples.But I too anticipate another year fo gardening.

  15. Hi Gina, Just a quick note to let you that I get it. I know exactly what you're saying. Its a lot of work, not only the gardening but the preserving. But that feeling of satisfaction just keeps on giving. Every time you open the pantry or pop a lid on a jar, every time you open the freezer, or share your bounty with a friend-there it is. Its a constant reminder of not only God's goodness but of your labors of love for your family. No job outside the home can compare.
    BTW, We have already received at least 3 seed magazines already. So as soon as the Christmas decorations are put away I'll dreaming of next year's garden!

    Have a great holiday season

    ps..if you have any tips on organic weed control..please let me know. blackponi@comcast.net


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