During this season of appreciation, it is only right that we take time this week to share a few of our gardening-related gratitudes. Each author of Good Growing took a few minutes to contribute expressions of thanksgiving and those are found below, but first a collective gratitude.
Long-time readers of Good Growing will know that each week, we have the honor of sharing our passion for all things horticulture with the people of Illinois. We work hard to bring you all relevant, useful, and entertaining gardening content that inspires you to grow. Our collective gratitude is to you, the reader of Good Growing. You inspire us, you challenge us, and you give us the gift of being able to explore the wonderful world of plants with people as ‘wal’nutty (or is it ‘hazel’nutty? perhaps ‘chest’nutty?) about it as we are so THANK YOU!
Gratitude from the garden of Chris Enroth:
I am thankful for all the free wood chips I have received this year for mulch. Let’s be clear, I have a lot of ground to cover, literally. And while I have purchased loads of shredded mulch in the past, having a source of free, wood chips have saved lots of money and time from weeding and watering. Not all wood chips came in the same form. On one occasion, they looked as though they were beaten with a thousand hammers as opposed to chopped up in a woodchipper. A few times my wife decreed, “These chips are not suitable for the front yard.” Did I agree? Yes, though maybe did not verbalize directly to her as I begrudgingly wheelbarrowed the material around the house. Yet, with time the colors of the varying types of wood chips fade together blending the various textures.
While I do enjoy the toil of working in the garden, I am thankful for the moments, although infrequent, of simply being in the garden. These are brief opportunities for reflection, relaxation, and observation. I look and watch the plants, insects, birds, and other animals with whom I share the landscape. Have you ever watched ironweed (Veronia sp.) flowers to see all the different insects that show up? It can be quite interesting and entertaining to watch the drama unfold between the creatures seeking a sip of nectar. I suppose this is my moment of ‘stopping to smell the flowers’ which I highly recommend as well.
Gratitude from the garden of Ken Johnson:
I am thankful for insects. Sure, they can cause problems. Squash bugs killed all my pumpkins this year, but that’s what makes gardening interesting and keeps us on our toes (maybe it’s just me). They’re also of great benefit to our gardens. They pollinate our flowers, turn the soil, break down dead plant and animal material, and control pests. If you’re brave enough, you can even eat them. Love them or hate them, insects help make the world go round.
I am also thankful for fall leaves. Some believe they are a pain to deal with, but their benefits far outweigh any inconveniences they may cause (having a chipper shredder also helps). Like Chris’ woodchips, they make great mulch that is free, and many people are more than happy for you to take them off their hands. The leaves we spread in our landscape will break down and provide nutrients to our plants. Leaves also provide overwintering habitat for a variety of wildlife, such as lizards, birds, turtles, frogs, and insects, so we always make sure to leave most of our leaves where they are.
Gratitude from the garden Emily Swihart:
For as long as I can remember, I have been thankful for my gardens but if I’m being honest, what I am truly grateful for are the people that share the garden with me. As a young girl, my parents gave me the freedom to dig up whatever piece of yard inspired me and plant what every plant piqued my curiosity. As a student and young professional, my professors and mentors provided an abundance of hands-on learning opportunities. As a wife and mother, my family joins me in the garden to create our own memories. Through Illinois Extension, I have the privilege of serving community members as they travel their gardening journey. I often go to the garden for respite before or after a busy day, but my true thanksgiving and joy are the times I get to share this lifelong passion with others.
In the category of less altruistic but for which I'm still grateful, I’ll give thanks for an old shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) that grows on our property. This gnarly old tree grows in contrast to the prairie grasses that surround the acres at its base. Damaged in the derecho that passed through southern Iowa and central Illinois earlier this year, the tree sustained damage but continues to stand. These tough trees are not always appreciated since the nuts they produce can be messy in an urban environment. The tree I admire is in a natural space where it provides food and shelter to an abundance of creatures. I love the species but my affection for this old friend is tied to the memories I’ve made with my kids as we pass by this tree on our way to the back woodlands where they run amuck, and my heart is overjoyed.
Good Growing Fact of the Week: Research shows that expressions of gratitude and gardening both produce mental health benefits such as decreased feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. The release of oxytocin occurs during both activities and helps improve social connections.
Thank you for reading!
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Emily Swihart is a Horticulture Educator with the University of Illinois Extension, serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island, and Stark counties since 2021. Emily provides horticulture programming with an emphasis on trees, native vegetation, and home landscape design.