Start a vegetable garden and plant flowers

I got interested in the idea to start a vegetable garden, when I discovered that apparently all the oldest and happiest people in the world have one. 

The book ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’ describes the lifestyle of residents of Ogimi. This small friendly village on the island of Okinawa in Japan, hosts a community that has the highest life expectancy in the world. And guess what? 100% of these ‘happiest and healthiest people’ interviewed had their own vegetable garden! 

Let me repeat that.

100% of the happiest and healthiest people in the world have their own vegetable garden.

Of course, correlation doesn’t equal causality. But the idea stuck: maybe these 100-year-olds were on to something. I wondered if taking time out of your day to be outside, stick your hands in the dirt, and nurture something tiny to grow would contribute to a spark of happiness. 

As someone who has trouble keeping houseplants alive, I never thought I would say this. But I was curious to see if gardening could become a personal source of joy for me too. So that’s why I officially declared ‘start a vegetable garden and plant flowers’ as #3 on my creative dream list.

Reconnect with food, nature & seasons

Buying your canned, plastic-wrapped food in the supermarket takes no effort. For 79 cents, you can eat a plateful of green beans. No need to know who grew them or from where they travelled to fill your belly. Heck, for 79 cents you can even forget about those beans and let them go to waste in the back of your fridge.

I mean: wasting food in general? 

Guilt. “I will do better next time.” “Well, at least I recycle my waste”.

Wasting your own-grown food? 

Soul-crushing. “After everything we’ve been through together! I still remember the day you were a tiny baby carrot. I called my brother-in-law from my holiday location to water you in that terrible draught. I was so worried I wouldn’t witness you grow into a big boy carrot.”

Look, I subscribe to the comfort level of our foods. But I think I lost the connection with my food that I assume used to be normal once. I am so cut off from nature, that I am not sure what vegetable is grown in what season anyway. I use an app to know what time is best to put those spinach seeds in the dirt.

I’m not used to see the time and effort it takes for a tiny seed to grow into something I find on my plate. I enjoyed seeing something grow. It’s almost comforting, to understand that everything in life takes time. You don’t start as a blossoming cherry tree. 

Also, I feel a new appreciation for my food.  To eat homegrown food is a special feeling. I simply open my door. I pull a carrot out of the ground. And the next moment I’m holding an object I can eat. Something I grew. Something so ordinary still feels like magic to me. 

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Better for environment

Also, I really like the idea that everything I grow myself is a replacement of something I would have bought in the supermarket. 

Yet, my vegetables come without any plastic or food packaging. There are no toxic pesticides. No greenhouse emissions used to get my food to my house.

Every consumer has power by deciding what to spend your time and money on. I realize that there are a ton of things you can do to care for our earth. Tiny steps may seem like they make no impact. But all those tiny steps together do make a difference. And it feels good to change my behaviours in teeny tiny steps.

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Getting started: a messy process.

I like to tackle new projects with a complete focus: no other big goals or deadlines to distract me. That way I have full attention for the steps I need to take. The process to start a vegetable garden was the exact opposite. I planted my first seeds without feeling fully ‘ready’. 

Some seeds were sold out. Some seeds weren’t fit for the current season. And I didn’t want to plant the same lettuce in 12 places. Consequently, I didn’t fill up all my ‘squares’ when I started. Seeing parts of my vegetable garden grow plants, while other parts were underutilized or worse, a perfect soil for weeds, made me feel unsettled at first. 

Then, I went on a holiday. So I didn’t water my growing vegetable babies for a week. I was so occupied with finishing my flamingo project, that I didn’t trim down the extra plants.  And while I was helping my mom declutter for a week, woodlouse decided to feast on my rocket lettuce. I felt like I wasn’t committed. And I felt like I didn’t give this project the attention I would like to give it. 

But here is the thing. I just started. Despite this nagging feeling that it wasn’t perfect. And in doing so, I discovered that even when you don’t give a project 100% of your attention, you will still make progress. 

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A vegetable garden to exercise surrender and accept imperfection. 

Even when I failed to nurture my plants, they would still get loads of sunshine, and a tiny bit of rain. When I came back after a week, most plants were still alive and kicking, yet 4cm bigger than when I left them.

In life, I tend to feel in control by putting in 100% effort. That’s because I believe that I’m the one responsible for the outcome. I am responsible to go for my dreams and make the most out of life. So I fear that my dreams will fail if I don’t give them my everything. And giving everything your everything, well, that’s a lot of pressure. 

My growth journey is to surrender. Give up control. Start. Nurture what I can in the context of a messy life. And accept that I’m only human. The rest is in the hands of the universe, or God. His mercy will complete what I started. And perhaps He will shine some sunlight on those dreams I’m undertaking, even when I feel too overwhelmed to nurture them all. 

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What lessons have you learned from the creative dreams you undertook? Share them in the comments!

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