Ten Reasons to Grow a Garden: A Conversation with Sandra Knauf

Growing a garden is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life and support a sustainable, healthy environment. Accordingly, we turned to former US Represented staff writer Sandra Knauf for advice since this is one of her areas of expertise. In a recent conversation, she gave us ten good reasons to grow a garden.

  1. Most people know that food taken straight from the garden is of much higher quality. As Sandra says, “Nothing tastes as good as a vine-ripened, backyard-grown tomato. Or a pepper, or cucumber, or anything else. And nothing is fresher than the food we gather from going out, harvesting some lettuce, and having that salad a half-hour later. There was some comment I read about how you should eat things when they still have that life force in them (Native American thinking) that the fresher the stronger that force is. It’s true, the nutrients diminish fairly quickly, and by the time food is shipped across the country, it’s in pretty poor shape, even if it looks good.” On the other hand, when you grow your own garden, “If your soil is great, your food is going to be AMAZING as far as nutrition.”
  2. By growing a garden, you can beautify your home and neighborhood with fresh flowers. This is one of Sandra’s special interests: “I love [fresh flowers], and in spite of some allergies these last two years, I have started growing flowers for cutting, zinnias, dahlias, poppies. (Some are low-allergy, like zinnias.) For those who love fresh bouquets, and the beauty of flowers indoors, there’s also nothing like home-grown.”
  3. Gardening encourages the art of sharing. Sandra describes a holiday experience that touches on this: “It’s fun to prepare food grown in your garden and share it. Two Thanksgiving’s ago, we had a meal where I contributed zucchini pickles and blue roasted potatoes (from the garden) to accompany a Ranch Foods ham and other delicacies. Most locally grown. All organic. It was fabulous, and it was so healthy. It’s also fun to share plants. Pass-along plants, they call them, and it’s a gardener’s tradition to share extra tomato seedlings, raspberry plants, mint starts, etc.”
  4. As Devon Berry explains in her essay “It’s All about the Bees,” we are witnessing the collapse of bee colonies throughout the country, due largely “to the dominance of monocultures and the pesticides that are necessary to maintain them.” Sandra addresses this issue in proactive terms, noting that bees “need all the help they can get, and even if you don’t grow a garden, you can grow beautiful bee-forage plants like blue mist spirea, Russian sage, sunflowers, borage, and many others that will help these creatures (not to mention all the other pollinators).”
  5. Sandra also points out that from farm to plate, “the average American meal travels around 1,500 miles. The carbon footprint of most food is huge. By growing your own garden, you’re helping save the planet in a significant way.”
  6. When you grow a garden, you’re communing with nature. Sandra asks, “Where else can you watch the lives of the birds and the bees and so many other creatures in such comfort?”
  7. Communing with nature can foster health and wellness, too. Sandra speaks to the mental and physical benefits of weeding: “I didn’t believe this years ago, but weeding is so therapeutic. Your troubles melt away (or get in their proper place and perspective.) They also melt away when you’re digging in the soil, making new beds, building structures for plants, planting things.”
  8. For those with families, Sandra shares a warm remembrance: “If you have children in your life, you will open a world up to them. Two years ago, I was in a community garden and my mom brought three small children to visit. The JOY on their faces as they gently petted a swallowtail butterfly while it suckled a zinnia and the excitement they had of pulling full-sized carrots from the earth was amazing. These kids were ages 3-6, and they loved it. All three were munching on carrots (while sitting in their car seats) when they left.”
  9. Sandra even touches on Earthing, which is based on the following concept: “The land and seas of planet Earth are alive with an endless supply of electrons. . . . By making direct contact with the surface of the planet—the skin of our bodies touching the skin of the earth—our conductive bodies naturally equalize with the earth. Figuratively speaking, we refill the electron level in our tank that has become low. Just like standard electronic equipment that needs a stable ground to function well, so, too, the body needs stable grounding to also function well.” If this is true, then gardening might be just what many of us need.
  10. Perhaps the greatest reward is knowing that “all the food and flower growing gives you a sweet feeling of self-sufficiency and connection. There is a huge sense of accomplishment, especially here in Colorado, if you can successfully grow a little food!”

For more on the celebration of gardening, please visit Sandra’s Greenwoman Magazine website. We also featured her novel Zera and the Green Man in US Represented. It’s an ambitious, ecologically conscious work wherein “a battle between those who would violate Nature in the name of greed and those who would protect it evolves—with Zera Green at its center.”