First of all, I don’t have a green thumb. My thumbs are pretty brown actually. I have attempted gardening before, and failed miserably. But here I am, growing vegetables in my home again anyway, and I love, love, love it.
Gardening is such a perfect activity for a diabetic – or anyone interested in a healthy, active lifestyle. Here are seven reasons why I love gardening – or more specifically, growing vegetables.
(1) Gardening is great exercise. Try digging, or shovelling compost, or battling to remove that useless patch of agapanthus, and see how quickly your blood sugar level drops. Seriously, it’s a win-win situation. Exercise, check. A new garden bed, check!
(2) Gardening is fun . Remember making mud pies when you were a kid? Or making rainbows with a hose on a sunny day? We did it because it was fun. Why not do it as grownups – in the (more socially approved) context of gardening? Bury your hands in soil, smile at the happy wiggle of an earthworm, feel the splash of water from a hose, and your days may be a little more fun-filled.
And fun is essential for a diabetic life, just to counter all the un-fun things we need to deal with like, pricking your fingertips 6 + times a day, or injecting yourself wiht insulin (or taking handfuls of pills), or having to see doctors all the time.
(3) Gardening promotes healthy diet. The best of part of growing your own vegetables is, of course, you can eat the fruit of your labour. And they taste so.much.better than store-bought ones.
Freshly harvested cucumber? They taste nothing like the ones you buy in supermarkets. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you’ll be eating more healthy, naturally organic vegetables without even knowing it.
(4) Gardening gives you variety. Where I live (up in the Blue Mountains in Australia), we don’t have good farmer’s markets or adventurous organic green grocers. So my vegetable and fruit choices in shops are rather limited. When you grow you own vegetables though, you can have an endless variety.
I love cooking with zucchini flowers, for example. These flowers are stuffed with soy pulp (okara) and almond “ricotta” with lots of herbs. It was so good, I’ll write a recipe soon.
I also grow Japanese herbs, like mitsuba and shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) – delicious in salads, but not commercially available around here.
Now I’m patiently waiting for tomatillos to ripen, and daikon (Japanese white radish) to sprout. How exciting is it?
(5) Gardening is profitable. You’ll save money by not buying exorbitant organic produce when you grown your own. For example, a small plastic bag of salad greens at a local co-op costs $3-4. Now I can pick as much greens as I like to eat from my veggie patches for free. I mean, you do spend a little on seeds and seedlings at first, but it does save a lot of money in the long run.
You can also save money by giving your home-grown produce as gifts. Instead of buying an expensive bottle of wine to a dinner party, why not bring a bouquet of herbs and greens from your garden? Or even a basket of zucchinis you’ve grown? Chances are, people are more appreciative of those gifts, too.
(6) Gardening can foster friendship.
I had a lot of help from my friend Nicola when I started gardening. Now, Nicola is a professional grower, and has her own business (Mountain Herbs – do check out her website and blog!) growing medicinal herbs and other plants. She is one of those rare souls full of kindness and uncalculating generosity. Nicola gifted me with lots of advice, free seedlings, gardening books, and even drove me to a landscape shop with her trailer, so I can buy a year’s supply of compost.
My point is, gardening is a great way to connect with people, and make new friends in your area. And in my experience, gardeners are most likely to be kind, generous, and warm-hearted people – people who you want to be friends with.
(7) Gardening boosts happiness
I have read somewhere that gardening is scientifically proven to have an anti-depressant effect. Something about bacteria in the soil having an uplifting effect in your brain. All I know is, it works. Maybe it’s the combination of those friendly bacteria, exercise (which is also a natural anti-depressant), the joy of being outdoors, the satisfaction of watching beautiful things grow, and resulting healthy diet. But since I started gardening, there is no question about it, I feel happier.
And when you are happier, you have less stress in your life, and you can better manage your diabetes.