The analogy can be very useful. But it’s just one aspect of an entire story about how people tend to their gardens during difficult times. Americans have for a long time looked to the earth during times of uncertainty to alleviate stress and envision alternative options. My study has inspired me to think of gardening as a secret landscape of a desire to feel connected and a sense of belonging to nature, and also for artistic expression and better health.
The reasons for this have changed over the years as gardeners react to various historical conditions. Nowadays, what draws people to grow their food may not be a fear of hunger as much as a desire to be physically connected, a belief in the strength of nature, and a willingness to participate in real work.
Why do Americans tend to their gardens?
Prior to industrialization, a majority of Americans had been farmers and thought it odd to cultivate food for leisure. But when they moved into suburbs and cities to get jobs in factories and offices, returning home to play among the beds of potatoes was unusual. Gardening also evoked nostalgia for the era of traditional lifestyles on the farm.
For African Americans and other black Americans who were denied the chance to quit subsistence jobs, The Jim Crow-era garden reflected the different desires.
In her article ” In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Alice Walker recalls her mother tending to a lavish flower garden at night after having completed grueling days of labor in the fields. When she was a young girl, she was unsure why someone would choose to add another task to an already difficult life. Then, Walker understood that gardening was not just another type of work; it was an expression of creativity.
Particularly for black women who are relegated to jobs that are not popular with society, gardening provided the opportunity to alter a tiny part of the globe into what was, according to Walker, “one’s “personal image of Beauty.”
It’s not to say that food isn’t the primary factor in gardening fancies. The 1950s’ convenience food culture was the catalyst for the very own generation of home-growers as well as the back-to-the-land movement that rebelled against the middle-century diet known for its Jell-O-based moldy salads, canned food casseroles, T.V. dinners, and Tang.
For the millennial generation of gardeners, gardens have responded to the need for community and acceptance, particularly for those who are marginalized. Residents of inner cities and immigrants with no access to green spaces and fresh food have embraced ” guerrilla gardening” in vacant spaces to revive their communities.
An immigrant tends his garden on the South Central Community Farm in Los Angeles. David McNew/Getty Images
In 2011, Ron Finley – a resident of South Central L.A. and self-described ” gangsta gardener,” was even threatened with arrest for putting up vegetable gardens along the sidewalks.
These appropriations of public spaces for use by communities are usually thought of as a threat to the existing power structures. In addition, many people are unable to comprehend the notion that one could invest time in the garden but not reap all the benefits.
When reporters inquired of Finley whether he was worried that someone would steal the food items, Finley said, “Hell no I ain’t afraid they’re gonna steal it, that’s why it’s on the street!”
Gardening in the time of screens
Since the lockdown started in the last few days, I’ve witnessed my sibling Amanda Fritzsche transform her neglected backyard in Cayucos, California, into an oasis of flowers. She’s also been involved in Zoom exercises, binge-watched Netflix, and logged on to online social hours. However, as the weeks turn to months, I am less enthusiastic about these virtual interactions.
Gardening, On the other hand, has taken over her life. The plants that were planted out back have grown to the sides of the home, and her gardening sessions have gotten longer into the night as she works with a headlamp.
When I asked her about her latest obsession, Amanda kept returning to her apprehension about screen time. She said that her virtual sessions can give you a brief lift; however, “there’s always something missing … an empty feeling when you log off.”
You can easily feel what’s missing. This is the presence in physical form of people and the chance to utilize our bodies in a way that matters. The same desire to connect that fills cafes with gig workers from all over the world or yoga rooms with the warmth of other bodies. It’s the energy of the crowd in a concert, the students chatting behind you during the class.