If you are the person that says, “why?” when someone says, “garden,” I have an answer for you. I have been living in this house in Brooklyn for eleven years now. Most of my gardening over these years has consisted of growing vegetables in the back, and planting other things like a peach tree, a cherry tree, and what I believed (until today) to be elderberry bushes. My frontyard gardening consisted of little more than putting in a couple hostas that a neighbor gave me when I first moved in. Those hostas, with little care and no prodding, have gone forth and multiplied, as all good hostas do. When I looked at them a couple weeks ago, I realized I was the only thing holding them back; they needed room to grow and since they’ve no feet, they needed me to move them.
So I have ventured to frontyard gardening and need both hands and feet to count the number of neighbors I’ve met since I started, barely two weeks ago. Today, lo and behold, I met the son of my next-door neighbor, who answered in 30 minutes what might take me several weeks of posting these questions to accomplish: the elderberries I was going to begin harvesting for wine this year are, as it turns out, dogwoods (I still need to confirm this – will post a pic later b/c I didn’t think that dogwoods grew berries but I’m not really sure); my hostas are hardier than I thought and can probably survive that shady patch close to the house where no other plant could make it; the little flower bush which popped out of nowhere a few years ago is actually a non-native invasive plant (my jury’s still out on the degree of importance of native vs. exotic – at least in small time gardening like mine – and, if I have a native that’s growing on its own and still rather pretty, maybe I should just let it be — taking opinions on that one too). Along with bits of wisdom that came from his own experiences as a prize-rose-grower and several years working for NYC Parks Dep’t., he also gifted me with some beautiful black gold, pictured above. Most importantly, he introduced me to my across-the-street neighbors, his mother and aunt, an octogenarian and noctogenerian who keep their front yard more pristine and pretty than any probably any other on the block. I’m not sure if it was the introduction from their kin that made me okay in their eyes or the fact that I was finally tending my – we won’t say neglected but rather left to nature – yard. Either way, it occurred to me that the adage “love thy neighbor” is good, but you gotta know them first.
QUESTION: what are some of the fringe benefits of gardening? If you garden, what have you gotten from it that maybe you didn’t expect at first? If you want to garden, what keeps you from it? If we were to start a campaign to encourage more people to garden, what benefits – both obvious and hidden – are there that might might sway more folks to dig in the dirt? How does gardening make you a happier person? Or doesn’t it? Go ahead…gimme the dirt.