It’s one of those phrases that makes me cringe each and every time I read or hear it, kind of like “compassionate conservatism” or “drill, baby, drill.” It’s a meaningless phrase, more B.S. spewed by both the mainstream and gardening media to try to inject my beloved garden with a little bit of the fear that sells magazines, newspapers, and air time.
I don’t want it. I do not want my garden in any way associated with the mortgage crisis, unemployment, Wall Street assholes or the idiots who decided that de-regulating our financial industry was a phenomenal idea.
More than that (as if that wasn’t all enough…) I don’t like what the “recession gardening” trend does for gardening. The underlying tenor of the whole thing is the same as when you go on a strict diet for a while: this is just something I have to endure until things get better. Once that happens, my life can go back to normal.
Is that what gardening is supposed to be?
It’s not so far removed from the Victory Garden movements during WWI and WWII, except, perhaps, in tone. The Victory Garden movements empowered people, at least for a little while (though many of those intrepid, patriotic gardeners gave up gardening as soon as life normalized again, as well). Recession gardening, to me, at least, screams of victimization and fear. As someone over on Garden Rant commented (See Garden Rant’s post about this here), the run by some on seeds and starter plants at the nursery to fend off starvation is disturbingly similar to those who are stocking up on ammunition in case this is it and society as we know it comes tumbling down.
Do we really want to live like this? Is this the basis upon which to form a lifetime love of soil, plants, and bugs? I’ve always seen gardening as the ultimate celebration of life, a truly optimistic endeavor, and an oasis of peace in our ordinarily insane and overscheduled lives. While I know that to our ancestors, an abundant garden meant survival, I hardly think we’re in that boat now. Nor do I think we will be again. Do I think we should grow as much of our own food as possible? Yes, of course. Do we need to know where our food comes from? Absolutely. But anything done out of fear is doomed to retain a negative connotation, especially for those who try it and fail (as so many of us fail, both at the beginning and throughout our gardening lives).
Gardening deserves so much more. Take the fear-mongering elsewhere. Gardening provides more than sustenance. A connection to nature, intimate understanding of how food reaches our table, and a stewardship of a bit of land, no matter how big or small, is what growing our own food is all about. Let’s not cheapen it by turning it into the gardening world’s version of the cabbage soup diet.