No, gardening is NOT ‘relaxing’

You’ve no doubt heard cliché quips about the stress-relieving blessings of having your own garden. I want to know, compared to what? A day at the beach or in the mountains? Kicking back with a brew on a deck overlooking the river? Listening to music or dancing? Sunbathing on your own deck? Reading a book?

Maybe you’re one of the newbies who decided the year of Covid, with its upsets to the food chain, would be a good time to lay in your first home produce. Welcome, and good luck. Now, for the learning curve.

Veteran gardeners to some degree enjoy what they do, the way any obsessive does, and the activity does provide a common topic for conversation with an in-crowd, or one that’s “in” at the moment. Otherwise, it’s usually old folks looking for some diversion.

Either way, don’t consider relaxation to be among the benefits.

Here are ten reasons gardening is going to raise your blood pressure instead.

  1. Weeds. You can never stay ahead of them, especially if you’re growing organically, which is your ethical alternative. I could do a long list of these nasty invaders alone. Weeding usually comes down to triage, depending on your available time and anger.
  2. Weather. It’s either too cold or too hot, too wet or too dry, and not just for the plants. For you, too, when you’re out there. And watering, in our city, costs a fortune.
  3. Woodchucks. They can mow down your beds overnight. Squirrels, as a subcategory, can also take quite a toll. Even our beloved birds can wipe out most of our berries.
  4. Garden slugs. We have clay soil, and the slimy (expletives) proliferate, taking bites out of everything in their path. You should see what they do to strawberries, for starters, as well as the tomatoes.
  5. Heartbreak. Something you’re really anticipating instead croaks prematurely. There’s always at least one sacrificially crop each year. Sometimes it’s a perennial that died off over the winter. Sometimes, something entirely new.
  6. Heavy harvests. Crops that survive usually roll in like a flood. How much zucchini can you eat at once? Do you really have time to home can or freeze the rest? How much can you actually give away? You bring it inside and watch it start rotting on a kitchen counter, which points back to Heartbreak.
  7. Skeeters, sunburn, and bleeding scratches. Remember, those raspberry and currant bushes have stickers, as do the roses … especially the wild roses that pop up as stubborn weeds. They’re not alone, either.
  8. Your knees and back. You’re not doing sets of hatha yoga asanas while you’re out there, often in cramped spaces where you’re trying hard not to crush the plants around you. Plus, you’re getting older. Let’s not overlook all those muscles you didn’t know you have, or the ones you wish you still did.
  9. Long lines and crowds at the nursery. Even if you order your seeds from your favorite catalogs at the beginning of January, something’s going to be out of stock. Besides, you’ll need something, maybe six-packs of a plant that died under your grow lamps or a bag of vermiculite, which means heading to the greenhouse same time everyone else is. Circling around the parking lot just trying to find a spot is a huge aggravation.
  10. Expenses. Even without factoring in the cost of your own time (I argue it’s not free), you’ll find that your produce and flowers can be pretty costly. Yeah, you’re already paying property tax, but don’t overlook that when you’re being realistic … that’s part of the reason you bought or rent a place with some ground, right? Good tools aren’t cheap, either (now where did you last see that trowel you need now or the nozzle to the hose?), and cheap tools break pretty fast. Cheap? Neither are those bags of everything from potting soil and starter mix to fertilizer and peat moss. Oh, yes, you may need to replace that hose and, while you’re at it, pick up another soaker hose to try to save on that water bill. And you’ll want rolls of plastic or bales of mulch hay or bags of bark to keep those weeds down, and skeeter spray and band-aids and more gasoline for the weed-whacker and …

All that said, before adding guilt or shame to our list, let’s return to the amazing taste of asparagus or strawberries or real tomatoes sped straight from the garden to the plate. There’s no other way to get this. We’ve really earned it.

4 thoughts on “No, gardening is NOT ‘relaxing’

  1. No space for a garden in my apartment. So my back doesn’t hurt. Not lacking fro produce though – lots of free cherry trees in the neighborhood. Later on I’ll harvest walnuts, pears and apples. Grapes arfe also free to eat as you walk through the vineyards, but you can’t bring any home with you.

  2. I’ve been gardening for 25 years and although I agree there is much that is true about your list, I must disagree with the title, for gardening is very relaxing for me. 😁

    1. I meant it tongue-in-cheek, but you’ll probably agree there are days you find emotionally stressful. Like the July morning we woke up to find out a third of our garden had been wiped out overnight by roaming woodchucks. Our brussels sprouts looked like Charlie Brown Christmas trees.
      We don’t want to discourage all the folks who have decided this year, with Covid threats to the food system, is the time to take the plunge into gardening, but I for one want them to be realistic about what they’ve entered into. Are you counseling any of them — even reminding them to water and weed diligently?
      Come to think of it, yoga takes a lot of work, too.

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