Grow Wellness in your own backyard
In my case, I grow Wellness in my front yard. Here, Wellness comes packaged in juicy fruits, dirty hands and vegetables bursting with flavor and life. Each spring I anticipate the beauty of green shoots pushing through the earth with their promise of nourishment and deliciousness.
The front yard happens to be where we have the most sun to grow vegetables and fruits. It’s not a large garden, nor do I spend a lot of time in it. This year, since the arrival of our baby boy, I spend even less time there having put my 9 year old daughter in charge of it.
My garden could be considered by some to be a hobby garden, but to us, it’s much more than that. It’s where we exchange soil and sunlight for wellness. It is our Wellness Garden.
During World War II, 50% of fresh produce was produced in Victory Gardens throughout the United States. Times were lean and producing food at home was encouraged. Victory Gardens not only boosted moral, they nourished a nation.
We need victory over chronic illness
Today, our need, though not brought on by war, runs even deeper. Chronic disease – autoimmune, degenerative, cancer, heart disease, diabetes – affects 6 in every 10 adults in the United States. Our bodies are begging for nourishment and our lives are suffering for it.
The explosion of the wellness industry in the US speaks clearly that we are in search of greater wellness, and for good reason. We have traded truly nourishing food for convenience. Giving our tastebuds over to flavors that food engineers create in a lab rather than the flavors of real food straight from the earth – not to mention settling for “fresh” foods that are devoid of mouth-watering flavor because of how they are grown and the distance that they’ve traveled.
Last summer, my sister visited from NYC during cucumber season. Tasting my homegrown, just picked cucumber, she exclaimed “this is the BEST cucumber I have EVER tasted!” I enjoyed that with so much gratitude!
Most conventionally raised veggies come with pesticides and can be depleted of nutrients that are in short supply in their soil. Pesticides are toxic. They rob us of life by interfering with our hormones, clogging up detoxification pathways in our bodies and killing beneficial microbes in our gut. Conventionally farmed soils also lack biodiversity compared to soils amended with compost. We need a full spectrum of nutrients as well as microbes.
Benefits of a Wellness Garden
When we grow our own food, we not only have the advantage of eating foods grown without pesticides in soils that host a multitude of life, we benefit from the freshness of the food. Foods freshly picked at the height of ripeness have phytonutrients that can’t be found in a supplement and are in short supply in the foods that have traveled to your grocer’s shelf.
When we grow our own food, Wellness seeps into our lives like sunshine. There is the simple satisfaction of enjoying food from your own labor. Gardening also slows us down, allowing us to escape the stress of a busy day, even just for a few minutes (depending on the size of your garden) when we pause to inspect our plants or see what may be ready to eat today. Touching the earth, even if it’s in a pot, we dip into the rich world of microbes that add to the diversity in our guts – this produces a wealth of life within that we never see, but it contributes to better digestion, a more balanced immune system and increased nourishment (beneficial bacteria make nutrients for us). And this is all BEFORE we bite into the best cucumber ever…or whatever it is that you choose to grow.
Start your own Wellness Garden
May is a great time to begin your Wellness Garden. Choose vegetables, fruits and herbs that you like to eat, what you have a hard time getting really fresh at the store or what you generally think of as a luxury item.
I grow cucumbers because they taste best fresh and spoil quickly. I grow blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries and raspberries because of their antioxidant value and expense when purchased organically (berries are on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list). I grow a variety of herbs so that I can use just the amount I need, not spending on what isn’t needed and will probably rot in my fridge. They are also packed with phytonutrients that are at their height when fresh and grown organically. My winter squash are sweeter than any I can buy and snap peas are delightful eaten directly from the garden.
If you aren’t sure how to grow things. Start simple. Begin with plant starts that can be transplanted directly into your soil. Choose organically grown plant starts whenever possible. Choose locally grown. Plants that have traveled are more likely to have experienced stress that will affect their production throughout the season.
If you just have space for a window or deck pot fill it with compost or an organic potting mix and many plants to make the best use of the space. Turn grass into rich soil by removing the grass and adding organic compost. I do it straight up (just compost) with wood chips on the top to conserve moisture and provide continuous habitat for beneficial microbes who in turn create more compost. Choose organic fertilizer if needed (as opposed to chemical fertilizers which upset the balance in your soil). I never till the soil and avoid walking on it to keep it from getting compacted.
Make watering your Wellness Garden a daily ritual, enjoying the early morning or evening light as a moment to slow down. Or use a drip watering system (parts available at your local garden store or Amazon) on a timer so you don’t have to think about watering. Get a garden sitter to fill in for you when you travel.
Join the Wellness Garden Movement
I envision a world where it’s the norm to nurture a plot of soil for Wellness. A world where neighbors share purely grown fruit from their own trees. Nurturing your corner of the earth provides better nutrition, but also the benefit of touching the earth and enjoying the fruit of one’s labor. We choose how we are fed – by laboratory/factory production (does this make us lab rats?), harmful chemicals or by the Earth. Even if it’s just a small portion of your diet, the benefit received from this exchange of soil and sunshine into Wellness will grow into something more wonderful than the sum of its parts. And creating a movement while doing so, is just the moral boost that our sick and burdened nation needs.
LightenUp Simply is all about reducing toxins at home and replacing them with nourishment. Growing your own tasty morsels is a beautiful to way to do both! It’s a 2 for 1 deal. Another tip: Don’t expect perfection. Make it a point to enjoy growing Wellness wherever you can!
Post a picture of your Wellness Garden on the LightenUp facebook page!
Resources for a simple Wellness Garden
Tips on how to plant your first organic garden
I discovered The Wellness Garden: Grow, Eat,and Walk Your Way to Better Health by Shawna Coronado while researching for this post. I have not read it, but it sounds like the author and I share similar sentiments about Wellness Gardens. Check it out and let me know what you think!