I know. I know. You’re thinking, “Lady, I don’t have a green thumb. In fact, I have 2 black thumbs. If there were such a thing as a thumbless gardener, that’d be me. I can not grow stuff!”
Here’s my secret. I kill houseplants. Never in my adult life have I ever been able to keep a houseplant alive. I either forget to water it or forget that I didn’t forget to water it or I forget that I have kids who LOOOOOOVE watering plants. Whatever the reason, I’m in my thirties and have yet to find a houseplant that I can’t kill with my sheer bad luck or negligence.
Outdoors, however… that’s a different story. There are so many reasons to urban garden and here are a few:
You simply cannot beat the taste:
Let’s be real here. You have not tasted a strawberry until you’ve eaten one grown in your backyard (or a field for that matter). A cucumber in the store does not even match the harmonious earthy and crunchy hydration that a cucumber fresh from the vine provides. And tomatoes? Those are my favorite. As a little girl, I would walk through the garden with a salt shaker and eat tomatoes until I could eat no more. Vine-ripe tomatoes are my candy.
I don’t know if you know about this little nugget of truth, but Duluth is home to many community gardens. Check out the Duluth Community Garden Program to find the garden nearest you and check out their page to see all the details on how you can rent a box and create your own sustainable food for the summer.
If you don’t have the stamina to rent a community garden space, Duluth provides a handful of local farmer’s markets. If you want the convenience of weekly deliveries without frequenting the farmer’s markets, a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) share is the way to go. We have enjoyed supporting our local farmers in both of these aspects. Local Harvest has some great resources on how to obtain locally grown food. Or when all else fails, Google will do.
It’s simple to do in your leisure time:
My husband and I actually built our own raised garden beds at our first home. Let me just tell you how proud I was of those gardens. I am like the little kid, tugging away at Mommy, saying, “Come look what I did! Come see! Looooook at this!” because, you guys, it feels GOOD to grow your own food! I actually (accidentally) managed to grow a peach tree from seed! Come to my house, send me a text, I’ll show you. It actually almost died this year: see above in reference to forgetting to water. I love that peach tree more than my first born (almost). I’m somewhere between awe and pure shock that it’s growing, and (now) thriving.
My favorite part of the year is deciding what I’m going to plant in my gardens. While we’re on the topic of gardens, I moved last year and I don’t really have any raised beds anymore, but the joy of urban gardening is that I only need a few pots and a chunk of soil where my kids killed the grass.
Dead grass+rake+potting soil=Instant garden (bonus points for a tiller)
Back to the fun part. I actually take my kids to the store to buy seeds (shocker, I know) and sometimes, we don’t even get what’s on my list of what I wanted to plant. Instead we find gems like turnips (apparently the purple on top and white on bottom makes it look like a jewel so we renamed it a jewel potato), eight ball zucchini, rainbow carrots, and 3 packets of wildflowers (all of which will be dumped by the 3 year old into the community greenspace and swales). When I fill a pot or a bucket or dig up some dirt and mix in black soil, my kids’ eyes light up like it’s the fourth of July. They sparkle with pride knowing that what they have sown in the fertile soil will create a meal for our family or a token to share with a friend. I wish I could bottle that joy up and keep it for Februrary!
It brings us together:
The point isn’t WHAT we plant (although I do usually go back by myself and get what I actually wanted), it’s that we plant these seeds together. We nurture them together. We overwater and sometimes kill them together, but we are building memories as a family. We are teaching our kids to be responsible, to take care of our earth, to invest time and effort into things that matter. It matters because we share with our friends, family, and neighbors. It matters because we revolve around food. We share our nutrition, our stories, our lives, our bounty. We don’t just grow vegetables in this community. We grow human beings that care about one another. It makes us better, stronger, and brings us together.