Green Seniors don't necessarily have green thumbs when it comes to growing plants, yet many of them tend gardens, large and small, as a hobby and as a lifestyle choice. For some, it may be a financial necessity as well.
The modern environmental movement has witnessed a revival of backyard gardening that has only intensified as concern about global warming grows. For people who have a bit of sunny soil and some time to spare, growing food is a countermeasure they can afford, using resouces already available.
New methods of gardening such as raised beds, no-dig, and permaculture offer seniors options for growing food that match the available space and accommodate the physical limitations some seniors may have. These types of gardening have been explored in earlier posts to this blog. A food garden does not require acreage and special machines, or backbreaking work in the sun, as many seniors recall from their youth.
Greengranny's blog, a companion site to Green Seniors, tells about her experiences in starting a small vegetable garden in her backyard at age 65. Greengranny was inspired by other seniors already accomplished at backyard gardening, by articles by environmental activist Keith Farnish, and by books such as: "The Urban Homestead - Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City" by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, "The Self Sufficiency Handbook" by Alan and Gill Bridgewater, and "The Backyard Homestead" edited by Carleen Madigan. These books are overflowing with ideas for sustainable living.
Striving towards sustainable living in urban environments has its critics.
We can't possibly grow all the food calories we need for year-round sustenance that way; that much is true for most city-dwellers. Well then, is it only a symbolic gesture, a feel-good deed that does little when all is said and done? We don't think so and here is why.
1. It provides some fresh food during summer and fall months that otherwise would need to be shipped long distances and often is grown in areas of irrigation with dwindling groundwater or mountain snow-melt. Displacing just a few percent of such crops would make it uneconomical to irrigate the more marginal land, which would be of value to the natural environment.
2. It provides a widely dispersed base of food growing which could be ramped up in case of food supply disruptions in areas producing most commercial foods, by local people with little outside assistance. This is especially true for those who maintain home organic gardens and collect seeds year to year. Even a small increase in locally grown food could counter commercial crop losses from areas hit by increasingly extreme and bizarre weather events.
3. Home gardening preserves essential knowledge for survival and helps pass this knowledge on from generation to generation. Children can participate in gardening as well as in the preparation and consumption of foods that are much healthier than manufactured foods high in fat and salt and often lacking in nutrients, unless added back in artificially. Web sites like that of Sharon Astyk can be excellent guides to learning.
4. Home gardeners are an excellent resource for continuing the cultivation of vintage varieties of food plants, helping insure the survival of genetic diversity of our food plants. There are not all that many plant species capable of providing humans with a substantial amount of nutrition, and we need to continue growing every one of them, to sustain the genetic lines that are the legacy of ten thousand years of plant domestication. Genetic homogeneity of food crops makes the food supply more vulnerable to pests and plant diseases.
5. Home gardeners can more easily get along without pesticides -- for example, by picking Japanese beetles off of plants rather than spraying them, and relocating slugs to wild areas. Home gardens with a variety of plants at varying stages of growth attract pollinating insects to their flowers and make the urban garden a refuge for these essential insects.
6. Mental and physical health and well-being are enhanced by home gardening. This alone might easily justify engaging in small scale gardening.
7. Home gardening may cost a little to start up, but it returns great value for the investment. Many families that could not afford organic produce from the farmer's market can afford to grow gardens.
8. As small surpluses develop in home garden produce, it leads to learning storage and preservation methods that extend the benefit beyond the growing season. Berries can be frozen a few handfuls at a time. Small batches of tomato sauce or applesauce can be frozen with little extra trouble. Some items can be dried, and root crops may be stored in a cool dry basement nook.
9. Home gardens lead to community sharing. Neighbors share their surplus with friends and neighbors. Even if each gardener has only one crop sufficient to share, by swapping with each other they maximize their variety and the use of available food. Everyone in America has seen the fruit tree with the fruit on the ground rotting, unharvested, because no one had the time or inclination to do so.
10. Most home gardening is recreation that is beneficial rather than harmful to the environment and thus may displace less helpful ways of spending one's time.
We are sure you can think of even more reasons, but these ten would seem to make a pretty convincing case for utilising the space you have in a far more constructive way than for which it may currently be used.