April 11, 2009–Today’s Way: Mid-March is when I start dreaming of my garden…it’s when the weather first tantalizes us Michiganders with the scent of moist earth after the thaw, and actual green stuff begins to ever-so-slowly return.  By April, it’s time to make choices about what I want to grow in my garden, and I pore over the seed catalogs, imagining the scent of my lavender plants as I brush past them, or ripe, juicy, swollen, red tomatoes hanging low on the vine. Even though we now have a couple of acres, my first garden was on the little concrete patio of an apartment many years ago. I had snapdragons and lupines, pansies, lavender, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, chives and even a cherry tomato plant. I just planted my little seeds and seedlings into containers and they grew, despite the small space. Running my own business has certainly cut into my gardening time, but after a couple of years without one, I realized just how much richness it brings to my life, and I refuse to live without a garden again. On a recent trip to Italy, I was struck not only by the beauty of the buildings and the art and the landscape, but also that, everywhere I looked, there were gardens. Big gardens, little ones, gardens rolling down hillsides, tiny gardens of fresh tomatoes and eggplants and herbs spilling over apartment balconies. The Italians know the great freedom that comes with walking outside into your own yard (or patio, or windowsill) and harvesting the fruits of simple labors…it costs so little time and effort in relation to the plentiful bounty and joy it brings. If you’ve been wanting to start a garden but keep letting year after year slip by because of lack of space or time, make this the year you do it. Just start small–don’t overwhelm yourself with more than you can really enjoy. You can start a few little seeds in trays indoors as long as you have a bright window, then plant them in containers on a patio or porch. Watching a plant sprout from a tiny seed is extremely satisfying, and highly motivating. The First Lady broke new ground this spring by starting an organic vegetable garden on the White House grounds, and you can, too. If we all grew even a few of our own vegetables and herbs, we would save incredible amounts of energy simply because those items are not being transported (and often refrigerated) by truck from 10 states away to sit on a grocery store’s shelves before finding their way to our dinner plate. We would also be saving ourselves from the tons and tons of pollutants and heavy chemicals that are released into our water and soil and air from the heavy industrial farming where most of our food is produced. The cost of growing your own food is mere pennies on the dollar when you start from seeds, or even buying organic seedlings. The greatest benefit, though, is biting into that crisp, juicy snowpea, or chopping green, savory chives to flavor your soup, or sinking your teeth into that first sun-warmed tomato right off the vine.

Whether you garden big or you garden small, plant some seeds for change today. In fact, Seeds of Change is one of my personal favorite suppliers of organic seeds, as well as Seed Savers, a non-profit organization specializing in the exchange of heirloom flowers and vegetables for every growing zone.

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