Thinking of gardening this time of the year reminds us that winter is not forever. The thought of gardening refreshes our mind. It’s never too early to start planning this year’s garden. These cold winter days are the most wonderfully perfect time, with garden catalogs arriving almost daily. The alluring pictures of blooming flowers and fresh vegetables fill our minds and senses. The benefits of gardening are endless.

Most of the work can be done by all family members, despite their ages. My children were with us from the start, watching from their stroller, when they were very young. They soon learned the art and reasoning behind straight rows and the proper way to measure to get the best row widths. They learn patience as they realize the sweet corn planted on Monday is not ready to eat on Thursday. They also learned it takes sweat equity in the form of weeding and hoeing, all the while anticipating the exact day the sweet corn is prime for picking.

Gardening saves on the grocery bill. Since we have always gardened and preserved the harvest, we have never seen a drop in our grocery bill. We just imagine that it must be quite substantial, since practically every meal we eat includes fruits and vegetables from the garden. And because of the abundance, we eat plenty. In strawberry season, there is no shortage of fresh berries! No need to be a scrooge when there are rows of berries to be picked again the next day. Add celery, okra and sweet potatoes to the list of vegetables grown successfully on our farm in northwest Iowa.

Nothing beats a garden for promoting good health. It’s a physical workout, yet paradoxically, it is also relaxing. Hours of weeding leads the mind to meditate. And there are healing properties in sunshine. When the sun shines, we feel good; even more so when we can feel the sun rays on our skin. The sun also helps our bodies process that Vitamin D needed for strong bones. The sun can help fight infection, and is even thought to help prevent certain cancers. Digging in the dirt also has benefits: It is thought that the bacterium naturally found in soil makes for healthier and smarter people, especially children.

Gardening can result in more family togetherness. There is no place for electronic devices in the garden; hands are busy, and real conversing happens!


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]