Dearest readers, I have a secret. Sort of. Not really, though it’s perhaps not the common knowledge one might expect. Quite simply, it is this: Gardening is an incredibly accessible and feasible hobby, as long as you approach it with flexibility and without specific expectations.
Regardless of your skill level, time constraints or physical ability, with very few exceptions, gardening is doable. And not only is it doable, it’s an incredibly rewarding pursuit that can help with the very things you may think are holding you back.
Let’s start with skill level. This one’s the easiest to overcome, because it’s as simple as practicing. I know that as adults, we sometimes expect ourselves to be competent and skilled far sooner than is actually reasonable. With age, we sometimes forget how long it can take to learn things, and how many mistakes we can expect to make along the way. I think we could all benefit from giving ourselves a collective break from needing to be perfect at every turn.
If you’re feeling skeptical, take me as an example. I knew very little about gardening four years ago. All I’ve done to gain my gardening knowledge is research, practice and learn to listen when other gardeners are talking.
Even now, I have yet to successfully grow a productive tomato plant. I have killed plants with too much and too little sun, too much and too little water and a million things in between. Some of that happened as recently as last fall!
But I have had successes along the way — more and more, as the weeks turn into months. I do not have some mythical talent with plants. Practice and time, that’s it.
Time though. That’s the real sticking point, isn’t it? In our hectic world, it never feels like there’s enough time. But here’s the deal. I would argue that for many, many people, gardening is worth it.
Gardens don’t have to be huge, sprawling monstrosities. One plant by your porch that you planted and fertilized and took care of is just as much gardening as an acre of vegetables and herbs.
Don’t have a yard or even a patio? Get some indoor plants. The results are in: Green, growing things are good for us. We are biologically programmed to find plants and greenery calming. If you’re stressed about not having enough time, then taking a little time to garden can actually help you destress. In my experience, the world genuinely feels less hectic when you have a little gardening in your life.
Last, but most certainly not least, let’s address physical ability. This one can be a little intimidating. I will preface with that fact that I am, of course, not a doctor, and I can’t speak to anyone’s specific abilities. What I can say is I have seen people overcome an incredible amount of disability in order to garden, and I have seen those same people benefit immensely from doing so.
I have a friend who has to stop for breaks every five minutes due to their body’s abilities. I have another friend who uses tall, raised beds so they can garden from their wheelchair. And I myself have had to adapt my gardening to my own abilities.
I have been dealing with tendonitis issues in my feet for about a decade now. Don’t worry though. I have recently found a massage and therapeutic exercise regimen that is helping to improve my tootsies. In the meantime, being on my feet in certain positions can be quite difficult. A lot of the common kneeling and squatting positions in gardening are things I can only do for a limited time.
So what do I do? Well, I garden on my tush. A lot. I kneel and squat when I can, working those muscles, and then I sit in the dirt the rest of the time. I look a bit like a toddler playing in her sandbox, complete with a huge, wide-brimmed hat and white streaks on my face and arms from my non-allergenic sunblock, but by golly, my garden gets planted and tended.
None of this is meant as a complaint. I thoroughly enjoy my gardening and I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t look elegant doing it. The point I’m trying to make is that if you let go of specific expectations (like looking sexy while you garden or not needing any help or accommodations), you may find that gardening is accessible.
What’s more, if it’s physical obstacles you’re trying to overcome, gardening can even help! Being out in the sun in and around nature is good for our minds and our bodies. On top of that, if you take to growing herbs or fruits or vegetables, I can guarantee you those will be better for you nutritionally than anything you buy at the store or in the market.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at any sort of gardening, I highly recommend giving it a chance. You can do it as fast or slow as you need, and making mistakes is literally part of the process. And if need be, you can garden while you heal. More often than not, gardening may very well help you heal.