As I remove the plants from their pots, gently teasing out the roots, before digging a hole for their new home, I’m struck by how I feel. There’s a sense of accomplishment certainly, but there’s this feeling of joy that getting my hands dirty produces.
Much has been written about the benefits of urban gardening. Already gaining popularity before the pandemic, interest in urban farming has skyrocketed. The most obvious reason is when you have your own garden, you are picking your produce at its peak of ripeness, making your food more nutrient-packed and tastier than what you find in the grocery store.
But I’ve learned over two seasons of gardening, that growing my own food not only connects me to nature but to my neighbours. Every day, when I head out to water my plants, other neighbours are there and there’s a shared sense of community we all feel.
When I moved into my new townhome in Tsawwassen’s master-planned community of Southlands last summer, I was offered a one-year free rental of a garden allotment. I was drawn to purchase a new home here partly because I love the fact that Southlands is deeply rooted in farming and food.
Another reason? My four grandchildren - all of whom are under the age of five. So, with no prior experience in cultivating food, I said yes to this opportunity.
My goal from the onset was to get my grandchildren involved and, in the process, get them (especially my picky eater), to be excited about the process of growing food. In doing so, I felt they would be more eager to eat the fruits of their labour. (I’m happy to report they are)
Last year, off I went with the two older grandchildren to my local garden nursery to choose what to plant. After a bit of debate, both agreed on strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Grandma also chose arugula and romaine lettuce.
This growing trend I’m part of is dubbed urban gardening. Apart from private backyard gardens, garden allotments are on the rise within townhome projects across the province, as well as in larger community gardens and building rooftops that allow people who don't have backyards to also grow food.
From bringing communities together to decreasing anxiety, several studies on gardening have been shown to offer numerous health benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
The benefits I’ve enjoyed are many. Beyond the concept of learning about tending a garden, watching all four of my grandchildren water and nurture the plants, has bought me immeasurable joy. The littlest one’s excitement is palpable when she grabs the blue and white children’s watering can I bought and proceeds to water everyone else’s garden plot but mine. The wonder I see in all of their faces when they discover yet another ripe juicy strawberry or tomato, can’t be beat.
Then, there’s the camaraderie I’ve enjoyed from meeting and making friends with like-minded green thumbs. For me, and many new green thumbs, urban gardening has given us so much more than healthy produce, it's given us a true sense of community.