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4 reasons to plant your own victory garden

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I’m a registered nurse who loves to dig in the dirt. I believe gardening grounds the soul and that food is medicine!

We’ve lived all over the U.S. and in Japan and Germany because the military wanted us to go. I picked to live in Spring Hope after his retirement, and I can add that I’m a Pirate mom (Go ECU!).

I’ve put in gardens every place we’ve ever lived — some more successful than others. My love of gardening is from my grandmother. I used to think she was odd, but now I see she was very forward-thinking. She was a young child during World War I and a wife and mother during WWII when victory gardens were a practical necessity and patriotic.

I loved to be at her house, especially when the pears were ripe. My cousin and I would climb up the pear tree and sit on her flat-roofed shed (I only fell off once) and we would gorge on pears we plucked off the tree that were warmed by the sun. I’ve never had better pears — ever!

Grandma would sew me nightgowns repurposed from old shirts, saved tinfoil to reuse and always recycled meat from the church events (and funerals — yes, that is another story). She collected compost in her kitchen, canned everything she grew, didn’t spend more than she made and always had a victory garden.

Now, she sounds impressive, but when I was a teen in the ‘80s I thought she was a little odd, way too frugal and definitely couldn’t be happy living like that. As I’ve matured, and gotten wiser (at least with some things) I understand she was smarter than I realized and that her victory garden was actually improving her life (Florence Nightingale believed that fresh air and flowers would help speed healing).

Starting a victory garden can be as small or as large as you want, but here’s my top four reasons for rolling up your sleeves and putting seeds in the soil so you can have a victory garden, too.

1. Homegrown food just tastes better.

If you’ve never gotten bounty from someone’s garden, you’re missing out on a slice of heaven on earth! In high school, my mom would get fresh black-eyed peas from a neighbor, and even in my teenage angst, I would gladly shell a grocery bag full of peas because nothing from the grocery store tastes as wonderful as fresh shelled peas. I promise, you will be sad to even think about eating a tomato in December from the grocery store after having a ripe, juicy, plucked-from-the-vine, seasoned-with-sunshine tomato from your garden.

2. You know what chemicals are on your plants.

Unfortunately, our foods (even organic) do not have as much nutritional value as they did in years past. Being able to know what is on and in your foods is becoming more important.

3. Green space makes you happier.

In the summer of 2019, I participated in a graduate study-abroad class in Seoul, South Korea. My class project was on green space and its benefits. I’ve had the privilege to visit South Korea and its citizens will grow things in any space available — think doorsteps, rooftops and even graveyards. By education I’m a research nurse, so I read a lot of studies. One interesting study that I found stated that gardening helps with depression. Sunshine + seeds + soil = happiness!

4. Having a hobby decreases stress.

It doesn’t matter if you have loads of land or just a tiny spot in your apartment. A victory garden hobby can give you benefits that go beyond what you harvest. Gardening is a year-round, lifelong hobby (although you won’t be doing the same things year-round).

2020 has been a strange year. As we endeavor to find our new normal, I encourage you to begin looking for an area where you can grow some of your favorite fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Grow some food, share what you can’t eat and have a victory garden because you deserve to thrive, not just survive. Find the happiness that being in the garden brings.

Happy planting!

DeeAnn Rivera is a Spring Hope resident and garden enthusiast who blogs at www.VictoryGardenGal.com.

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