Why Do I Garden?

Updated: Mar 3

By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners

Both of us grow plants for food and for aesthetics in our yards. But our reasons for doing so are different.

Emmy: I grew up in Northeast Ohio where gardens and vegetation abound. I moved to Midland and realized that the plants I grew up with would not survive here. As a fourth-grade science teacher, I wanted my students to appreciate our unique area and learn what a natural environment offers.

When a baseline biodiversity survey conducted by my students revealed the need for a more natural habitat to enable native plant and animal species to flourish, the students developed a landscape plan for the courtyard. Under the guidance of the Permian Basin Master Gardeners, our ideas and dreams became a reality. In 2004, we were awarded the Texas Environmental Excellence Award, Youth Award by the TCEQ.

But in 2012, my husband was killed by a drunk driver while we were visiting the Big Bend. I know what it feels like to grieve for what is lost and I know what sustains my life. I turned my focus on developing native habitat, growing most of my own fruits and vegetables and making my life more sustainable. Gardening and being outside gave me three gifts: breath, time, and clarity.

In my garden, I have a quote from two of my favorite authors:

“The single most essential element in any garden is not some particular object, plant, or tool. What’s vital is a gardener who loves it. Unfortunately, much of what is promoted as or called a garden in North America is nothing more than a landscape installation. Love has nothing to do with it.”

--Scot Ogden and Laura Springer Ogden, Plant Driven Design

If you ask me why I garden, I will tell you it is all about love.

Debbie: I had no interest in plants until my late 30s. I tried without success to grow plants unsuited to our area and in unamended soil. In 2011 my grandson was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. He was six months old. That changed my life forever. I retired and helped with his 4 year old sibling while he was undergoing treatment.

In 2013 I became a Master Gardener. I discovered that being outdoors gives you time to pray and connect with all things the earth has to offer. When I dug a hole and smelled soil, I was hooked. Now when I garden all feels well with my world.

When we garden, we find out what should be growing in West Texas, that there really are over a billion microbes in a tablespoon of soil, and that sometimes life is hard, but a new season and chapter will come bringing new life and maybe even a new vision.

Final note: My grandson finished his treatment and puts a smile on my face every time I see him.

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.


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