KALIS: Gardening is good for the soul

There is something about gardening that is therapeutic to me. It seems the dirtier I get, the more cleansed I feel.
Apr 16, 2013

Perhaps it’s the fresh air and the sound of birds singing after a long, quiet winter. Maybe it’s the sun on my back that brings the promise of warmer days ahead. 

Or possibly, it’s just knowing that all of the hard work will be rewarded with beautiful flowers and a bounty of fresh vegetables. 

There’s nothing like waltzing right past the produce section in the grocery store, knowing you have everything you need in your own backyard. Plus, everything always tastes better when it’s fresh from the garden.

Of course, first you have to put in the work. For some, that might seem daunting — but for me, it’s exhilarating and I can’t wait to get started! 

It’s been like that every spring for as long as I can remember.

I grew up with a garden. I remember how exciting it was when my dad would begin to turn over the dirt. I remember trips to the farm to get manure-rich mulch and my dad teaching me how to plant and water the seeds. 

My mom would ask me to go pick vegetables and herbs that she needed for dinner, and mint leaves for her iced tea. When we would go on vacation and arrive back home, my brother and I would race to see how much the garden had grown while we were gone. 

My grandpa had the biggest garden I’d ever seen. I remember him laughing at how I used to pick hot banana peppers and bite right into them. 

When I got an apartment with my college friend, who just happened to grow up on a farm, we got permission from the apartment complex to grow a tiny garden alongside our place.

And when house hunting with my husband, who grew up with a garden as well, a good spot for growing was actually on our must-have list! Indeed, one of the first things we did when we bought our house in Grand Haven was put in our garden. 

And as our kids grew, they grew to love gardening as well. They loved picking everything out and helping me plant it all. They loved finding worms and being allowed to get as dirty as they wanted. 

For years, we had a tradition that would kick off the gardening season. The kids would put on old clothes, grab the hose and jump in the empty garden for what came to be known as the annual Mud Fest. Planting would come a week or two later. And by summer, we were enjoying tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, green onions, sweet basil, beans, snap peas, strawberries, radishes ... the list goes on. 

Even now that they’re older and the days of Mud Fest are long gone, my kids still have certain things they insist on planting themselves, and they jump at the chance to go pick something. 

And so I welcome spring — the refreshing change of seasons and the sense of renewal it brings. I welcome warmer, sunnier days, and people emerging from their homes to embrace the outside world like tulips emerging from the earth after a long winter. 

But mostly I welcome the sight of our garden slowly being revealed by the melting snow, ready and waiting. I look forward to the first dry, warm day that I can head out there and get my hands dirty. And I can’t wait for all that my garden brings.

— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist

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