It’s Spring in Canada: Get Thee to the Garden

It’s Spring in Canada: Get Thee to the Garden
The benefits of gardening are myriad, writes John Weissenberger. (nieriss/Shutterstock)

It’s finally spring in Canada and that means we can at last go green, but not like post-modern Gaia worshippers. Rather, we can partake in the timeless pastime of gardening, connecting to both the natural world and one of your own design.

It’s hard to overstate the merits of this. Too many of us live in boxes high above the pavement, often without even a balcony and thus detached from the earth.

If the benefits of gardening aren’t obvious, let’s look at a few.

First, the utilitarian case for getting your thumb green which is, on its own, compelling. Buy a bunch of bedding plants or, better yet, seeds, and get to work.

Seeds are still fairly cheap, but this isn’t about the money. As any gardener will tell you, the passion quickly translates into ever more ambitious activity that, in turn, busts the bottom line. That said, some produce like tomatoes, tree, or bush fruit are hands-down better from your own garden than from the store. Who can put a price tag on a perfectly ripe tomato or strawberry? What surpasses the fragrance of a freshly picked herb?

And another dirty little gardening secret (don’t tell your spouse) is that the best produce never makes it into the house, it’s greedily eaten right off the vine. If you play your cards right and can master canning or blanching and freezing, your summer bounty will feed you right through the bleak mid-winter.

Second, there’s the simple aesthetic pleasure of viewing flowers, ornamental shrubs, and trees.

Whether your taste inclines to the French garden’s straight-lined battalions of annuals and buzz-cuts of woody growth or the flowing, naturalistic English style, the potential is equal to the amount of work you’re willing to put in. And pleasure derives equally from the smallest hanging basket to the largest, elaborate garden of your own design.

Last, there’s the challenge your green space throws back at you.

Design itself is a gift or vocation and there is so much to learn. What is the soil on the site? Should it be improved, or should the pH be modified? What’s the drainage, and, most importantly, how intense is the sunlight and for how long? All this and more must be mastered before or while you’re mapping out a design that’s pleasing to the eye.

You need to pick the plants by height, spread, time and colour of blossom, and shade tolerance, amongst other things. When all is done, your space can comprise plants of increasing height away from the viewer, yielding tiers of colour and texture. Ideally, if you choose your plants right, something will always be blooming and fragrant, right through the season. Some plants, particularly shrubs and trees with uniquely coloured or textured bark, or appealing shapes, will be attractive right through the winter.

Combine all these elements, and you’ll find your garden/green space will give back to you in many tangible ways, not least the physical and psychological benefits. Gardening is an exercise that you can match to your age and ability. Simply digging in the dirt can apparently boost happiness and, after only toiling a mere two and half hours a week, yield measurably improved health.

Then there’s the fact that the gardening that doesn’t kill you, or beat you down psychologically, will make you stronger. This is where we walk in the shoes of our forebears, who eked out a meagre existence from frequently poor soil in the face of a harsh, unforgiving climate.

These realities give us a much better appreciation of what our farmers live with every day: How an encouraging spring can turn into a sodden or parched summer, negating all your hard work and stealing any reward; how a beautiful harvest can be devastated by early frost or beaten to pulp by hail; or how the best-laid plans of mice and men—which brings us to vermin and bugs—can ruin your otherwise perfect garden.

For instance, the mystery of something as small as a vole being at once wickedly clever and immensely destructive is a question only divine revelation might answer. Similarly, any sense of the charm and cuddliness of a rabbit or raccoon is immediately extinguished by the quick devastation these villains bring to a summer’s work.

Consequently, my personal thanks to the inventor of the .22 calibre, particularly the birdshot cartridges. Improvements in pesticides and herbicides are also greatly appreciated, unless you believe in a tenuous notion like the ecological utility of tent caterpillars.

What pastime is as organically fulfilling and educational as gardening? It satisfies body and soul while providing perhaps a few too many life lessons. (Darn voles!)

And sure, if one spring or summer, nature—with its capricious whims and rapacious creatures—conspires against you, there’s always the farmers’ market.

John Weissenberger, is a geologist by profession and a Senior Fellow at the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy, but he prefers to garden.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Weissenberger is a Calgary-based geologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary and a senior fellow at the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy.