Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's A Family Affair

Vegetable gardens are fashionable again. Seed sales soared this year. Communal gardens have come back. An abundance of articles on vegetable gardening is available this year. You can read about every aspect of this re-emergent trend from Oprah's beginner advice "From Seeds to Edible Greens: 4 Easy Vegetable Garden Rules" to the Wall Street Journal's grocery bill financial analysis "How much green can growing a vegetable garden save you?"

The growth of our own garden, beyond tomatoes and basil, began when my sister-in-law had the idea of planting a family vegetable garden 2 years ago. She got the idea from reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver Since we have four family households in our small connecticut town, it was easy to pick a plot and all dive-in. Each family member, from age 8 to 74, does their part. We grow plenty of crops for all of us as well as some friends. In fact, we ended up begging people to take our Zucchini donations last year. One can only eat so much Zucchini.

We all have different skills and work preferences. Not surprisingly, the younger kids like to dig, water and pick (and eventually throw) rocks. One brother runs the rototiller and mulches. The other brother builds wooden structures such as gates and tomato trellises. My husband built the fence that keeps out the wild life (particularly our "bull-in-a-china-shop" dogs.) Most of the ladies like to weed and pick. I like it all.

At first, the benefits of a shared garden may seem obvious: cheap, fresh food. However, after just one season, other positive effects showed themselves clearly. Vegetable gardening is multi-generational project. These seem few and far between lately. One almost 80 year-old man we know and his 9 year-old granddaughter look forward to growing big beefsteak tomatoes and frying peppers together each year. Another positive point is that the “mother nature-driven” schedule of gardening provides unplanned family time in an over-planned world. And finally, the benefit most befitting of this web site, is outdoor exercise. Digging, hoeing and weeding build strong muscles. Expending more calories harvesting the Swiss chard for dinner than is actually in the greens keeps weight down.

Even if you don’t have an abundance of family in the area, you can still create the same feel. Try a communal garden with friends. You’ll grow more than just green beans.

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