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Dec. 8, 2019

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Gardening With Allen: Gardening gives life meaning, structure

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Published: December 3, 2019, 6:02am

Life becomes so hectic this time of year that we find ourselves coming and going at the same time. It sometimes helps to take a few minutes to relax and ask ourselves what is important and meaningful in life. What are some things which give joy, peace and stability in a hectic world?

For me, gardening, plants and nature in general have been the underlying structure of my eight decades of life. Since earliest childhood I have been an outdoor person. About 200 feet from my back door were fields, hills, a creek, trees and miles of undeveloped land to explore. Around my childhood home was an acre of ground, about half of which was landscaped with large trees, hedges, lawns, flowers and vegetables.

When jobs were assigned to my sister, brothers and I, it was only natural for me to volunteer for gardening. By the time I was 14, I had responsibility for most of the gardening. My parents encouraged me by furnishing all the seeds, plants and tools that I needed. Both my mother and father enjoyed gardening and spent time teaching me and working with me.

I also spent time helping in a nearby local nursery, volunteering my time. My pay was plants and supplies, and most of all, the knowledge I gained. Later I worked for pay at a garden store. Then I went to college and obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture.

Gardening has provided most of my exercise, although walking and hiking are important contributors. Gardening has provided natural stretching exercises which have kept me quite flexible for my age. Although I do not spend as much time in the garden as I used to, I still do a significant part of the gardening. Gardening has been a wonderful physical conditioning program for me.

The most important benefit of gardening for me has been the opportunities to be creative. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, calls it self-actualization. Plants and gardens are beautiful, but the satisfaction that comes from putting seeds or small plants into the ground and nurturing them to maturity is hard to match.

It is also gratifying to involve your own children and grandchildren and then watch and help them develop their own landscapes. When my grandchildren come to visit, they usually go directly to the backyard to see what is new and edible before they even come into the house.

No fruits or vegetables taste quite as good as the ones picked from your own garden. And you control what goes on them. I take raspberry freezer jam when I go to visit children and grandchildren. It hardly makes it inside the door before it is on the bread.

Gardening is a hobby with no age limit. There is always something to add or change, even when you have a mature landscape.

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