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Why Do I Garden?

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

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 and


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