This question was posed in the May 2009 issue, and the answers came in fast and furious. There seem to be as many reasons as there are grains of sand, but there were common themes in the responses we received, and the ones quoted here pretty much sum up our communal devotion to this most engaging and rewarding endeavor: growing it yourself.
Dana Ax's answer is as charming and traditional as you might expect from someone who labels himself "a gentleman gardener." Writing from California, Dana explains that as a small business owner, he finds gardening helps to relieve the stresses of the day: "I consider it therapy," he explains, going on to describe how he starts everything from seed in a small greenhouse, so he is tending plants throughout their lives. He always grows too much, but finding good homes for your starts is the gardener's burden. Dana seems to have cracked it: "The neighbors love me."
Susan Yahn sees history repeating itself. As a child, she was made to help in the family vegetable plot and "swore I would NEVER EVER have a garden." Now she is a dyed-in-the-wool garden maven and finds her 22-year-old son asking for advice since he had his own place and intended to do a big garden to be self-sufficient. "You could have knocked me over with a tomato cage," writes Susan. "This from the kid that moaned and groaned with every weed to be pulled."
Dawn Rhodes from Ohio writes, "I find it a great responsibility to continue the story of gardening and self-sufficiency. It is also a lot of fun. It is a great way to just slow down, ponder life, and enjoy the harvest." Tracy Chavous sees the poetic symmetry in gardening, wanting her children to learn the true meaning of patience, and to learn something that does not require them to sit in a chair under fluorescent lights.
Birds and other fauna are part of the garden scene and, for some of you, more important than the flowers-like Donald Privett, who says he finds spirituality and serenity in the visits bees, birds, and butterflies make to his flower garden, and photographing them gives him a lot of happiness.
Childhood memories, though, are the most common thread tying us together. Brad Smith wrote a short essay about learning gardening as a kid growing up in Flint, Michigan. He began by simply watching a Greek family tend their "enormous" urban vegetable garden. As his family left the city for the 'burbs, Brad found another gardener for look-and-learn opportunities: He met Mr. Zitterkoff, a German immigrant who had purchased two lots-one to build a house and one to garden intensively. "He was like a grandfather to me," recalls Brad, "and I worked with him for 6 years doing all the little odd jobs that made me into a gardener. Forty-seven years later, living in El Paso, Texas, Brad remarks that "times have surely changed," but one thing remains the same-he gardens, and remembers Mr. Zitterkoff and "the very special gift he gave to me."