My family usually have this indulgent look on their faces when I talk about gardening; the one that says, yes we can see you feel passionate about the subject and that's OK, even if we don't feel the same way about it.
I know they love the vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers they get, and they are happy that the garden looks pretty and well-cared for, but if gardening was left just up to them, they wouldn't do it.
So why do I?
1. I actually enjoy the work, the physicality of it. That said, gardening is not as much hard work as many people fear it is. There are even ways to reduce the work, for example, using no-dig method of gardening, mulching your soil very heavily (which kills the weeds), installing a self-watering system etc. You can also grow mostly perennial plants ans self-planting annual veggies and herbs and plant fruit trees. I've also found that herb plants can survive for long time and some self-plant too. It's also not as complicated as most people think it is. I've found a few websites online which give clear, step by step instructions on how to plant, care for and harvest various plants and all in all, I have a hard time killing most seeds that I grow.
2. Gardening is good exercise for me. I don't walk/run as much as I should, and I have no plans to go to the gym on a regular basis. Even when I was much younger, I didn't like going to the gym - too many people when I needed quiet , a lack of coordination which made me feel conspicuous and the fact that you have to pay all this when I could do something else that didn't cost me money and didn't require a new set of clothes. Back then, I walked/jogged/ran and entered numerous races and matharons, even the half -marathon race in the Soweto marathon. Now digging, weeding, planting, transplanting, carrying weeds and rocks has made me feel healthier than ever.
3. Gardening helps us keep the yard neat and clean - The fact of the matter is that we have a very big yard and something will always grow on it. It can be weeds, or it can be something useful. I chose the latter.
4. Growing our vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers helps keep our food costs down - I have been keeping track, and while everyone talks about escalating food costs, my food costs have been consistently dropping. I now spend R1000 less than I used to around this time last year. I haven't bought any herbs for more than a year, yet I use plenty for lunches, dinner and snacks. I make my own pesto, keep us well-supplied with cut flowers and most of our meals have at least three vegetables coming from our garden.
5. Growing our food expands the variety of vegetables, fruit and herbs we have access to - Most people are limited in what foods they can buy by their food budget. Not so if you're willing grow some of it. If you don't need the additional savings (maybe because you already save, thank you) you can use the money saved through growing your own food to buy luxury foods that you would otherwise have skipped, improving your standard of living at no additional cost.
6.Growing our food gives us food security - I don't know if you've ever faced an evening with a loaf of bread and hardly anything in the fridge or cupboards. I once counted out coins to see if I could afford to buy a can of beans. Growing our food means I never have to face that kind of situation again..ever... because there will always be something edible growing in there, whether I have cash or not.It's one less thing I have to worry about.
7. Growing our food gives us independence - Most of the foods I grow are available at the local markets and the ones being sold look prettier even. However, in South Africa there are a lot of strikes happening at any given time, sometimes it's even truck drivers who do delivers including food deliveries. The retailers do their best to deal with the situation, but I like knowing that my access to adequate food sources does not depend on their actions.
7. Home-grown food is very tasty- I thought that was a myth being spread by what I liked to think of as the "organic gardening brigade." Turned out to be very true. Yes, there is a huge difference between homegrown and store bought foods. The home-grown version doesn't look as pretty though:-)
8. I want to set an example for my community - I live in a village in South Africa, and while most people are not poor and I have never seen the kind of poverty talked about in newspapers and TV when people refer to Africa, people still have financial struggles. The one resource we do have is land, this being a rural area and the stands being a bit larger than suburban/town/city lots. And we get some rain in summer and autumn. We are also connected to municipal water. I guess I want to show my community that with the resources we do have, they don't ever have to wonder,"what's for dinner" because there is a good dinner growing in their yard.