I love my garden. It is by far my favourite hobby. I could, and often do, spend hours pruning my plants, inspecting them, weeding the soil, looking for signs of the fruits and vegetables to come. I find it meditative, an oasis in the city for mind and body. I have very fond memories of summers spent at my grandmother’s house, helping her shell peas and pick as many berries as we could off of the small patch of raspberry canes. My grandmother grew everything; if there was something that her garden didn’t produce, she had a good reason why it couldn’t be grown by her. My parents and I had our own garden for several years, often productive but never as prestigious as my grandmother’s. I seem to recall we always had an abundance of loathsome radishes. Over time, as I got older and my parents busier, the vegetable gardening ended.
My own gardening relationship started about 7 years ago when my boyfriend (now my husband) helped me build a small garden box in his backyard. It was tiny, and I didn’t know what I was doing with the plants, but I loved it all the same. Since then I’ve kept a garden every year except the one we moved. Over the last 5 years I’ve had some great harvests, some dismal, but all so gratifying and satisfying.
I’m pretty certain my relationship with my garden is quite different than my grandmother’s with hers. I see my garden as a hobby, something I could take or leave at will. I garden for the experience, and the taste of the produce. While I’m certain my grandmother did enjoy her plants, gardening was not optional, it was survival. She was born in Ukraine shortly before the great depression. She was a poor immigrant to Canada who worked her body hard to have the small amount she was able to gain. A healthy and abundant garden, for her and many others, could mean the difference between nourishment and hunger over the long Canadian winters.
For most Canadians, gardening is no longer a way of life. Many urban dwellers simply do not have the option to have their own gardens. As a society, we have difficulty finding time to eat our meals, let alone growing our meals from seed. The advances of Canadian modern life bring many incredible and wonderful things, but also a disconnect with our food. Food comes from stores and restaurants and vending machines, all year round. Food is now something we only need to think of moments before it is consumed.
Not everyone can or should grow a garden. Reintroducing gardening probably won’t solve our environmental problems or hunger issues. I don’t need to garden for sustenance, but I want to cultivate the relationship and connection to my food. Then pass that on to my daughter. Just as my grandmother’s garden did for me.