Gardening with Allen: Food to exercise, gardening has many benefits




Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at

With so many other entertainment and recreation opportunities available, why do so many people choose to spend time gardening?

Each person has his or her reasons, but here are a few of my rewards from gardening:

I have been an outdoor person since childhood, so I do as much of my recreation outside as possible. There is something calming and comforting about being in the beauty of nature. And if you have helped create some of that beauty, it is even better. I spend at least a few minutes several times a week touring my yard. It is fun to watch the changes plants go through from week to week. Even in winter, I carry my pruners with me so I can cut off a dead perennial I missed or prune an errant branch.

I find that my physical as well as emotional well-being is improved from the exercise involved in gardening. A half-hour in the garden burns calories and improves muscle tone.

My vegetable garden is not as big as it used to be, but I still grow enough vegetables and fruits that I have some to share with neighbors. And they share special things they have grown with me. Have you looked at the labels of processed foods closely? All the additives and preservatives concern me.

I know what I have put on my fruits and vegetables. We used to can a lot, but most of our extra produce now goes into the freezer.

The taste of just picked fruits and vegetables is enough alone to keep me growing my own.

Gardening keeps my mind active. A lot of people ask me questions. I often have to search to find answers. In the process, I run across other interesting information that I wasn’t looking for. It gets me into my library of horticultural books.

The internet is also a wonderful resource for all kinds of information. Not everything is reliable, so I check several sources.

One of my favorite things to do is to walk around nurseries looking at unfamiliar plants, seeds and products. I am constantly adding and moving shrubs and perennial flowers to find a suitable place or more attractive display.

I have garden friends who make money from gardening. A little extra space can be used to grow specialty vegetables or flowers for sale at the farmers market.

My sister has many unusual plants in her garden which she divides, pots and trades or sells to friends and neighbors. Because she is active in garden clubs and organizations, her yearly spring plant sale attracts a lot of customers.

My favorite niche for extra income is designing landscapes.

For me the most important reward from gardening is the self-actualization which comes from the creative process.

When I plant, prune or rearrange my landscape, I get a greater sense of accomplishment than almost anything else I do. I have watched seeds or small plants grow to maturity with the help of my nurturing.

Of course, sharing this process with my wife, children, grandchildren and friends is part of the process.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. Email Allen Wilson at