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Why you should garden, no matter where you live

Bring the joy of gardening into your home, whether you have a spacious backyard or tiny balcony.

tfamily planting flowers

Photo credit: skynesher/Vetta/Getty Images

t You may consider yourself a city girl and have to be reminded that the earth is the stuff under the concrete, but the next time you stop into your local juice bar for a greens juice, I want you to pause and really think about where those greens came from. I’m a city girl too, but studying nutrition helped me appreciate the earth and things that grow from it. In my pursuit to help people eat healthfully and live a more nutritious life, I studied everything from large-scale farming to small-scale gardens; how fun to learn about Mother Earth in the mix of biochem and food science class. Every spring I’m re-inspired by the new green leaves that emerge (and new sandals for myself and cleats for the kids). Even Crayola can’t quite capture the green that pushes through the earth in a cycle that’s older and more profound than a grocery-store tomato can capture. I’m positive that there is an inner gardener in all of us, and there are amazing reasons to meet yours and capture that spring feeling more than once a year.

t Is space an issue for you? Yeah, me too. Apartment living brings out the best in my brown thumb, but it doesn’t discourage me. If you’re short on space and lack the confidence of a master landscaper, start with herbs. They grow beautifully indoors, and mint and basil grow like weeds (because they are). You’ll be inspired by new shoots and be thrilled to toss the fresh leaves into your salads, omelets, iced tea, pesto and other culinary creations. You won’t need a plant-sitter if you hit the road for a few days, and small pots of herbs make the nicest hostess gifts. (Do you like how I just replaced your usual dessert or bottle of wine for something healthful?)

t If you have even a tiny balcony, you’re in luck. Not only can you look out and see your seedlings grow as you practice your sun salutations, but you can step out and breathe them in. Window boxes and planters can take up small amounts of space, and they respect all skill levels. While you won’t be growing watermelons, there is potential. The novice may want to start with something like nasturtium or calendula flowers (that are both beautiful and edible), but I’m not joking when I tell you there are successful tomato plants and strawberries peeking out of many a NYC high-rise balcony. Even if you start with sterile soil and seeds, amazingly enough, insects and even worms will find and nourish your penthouse-level outdoor plants, thanks to birds. You gotta admit that is both creepy and interesting.

t If you have land, even a tiny plot of grass, you know how good it feels to come home and see a healthy lawn. Blade by blade, each piece of grass is a little piece of life, and it is so much nicer to throw a ball across than the sterile-looking turf you play on in the city. If you have space, grow something. It’s good for the earth, makes your world more beautiful and adds to your sense of accomplishment. Remember to be honest with yourself; is it best to grow wildflowers or plant a blackberry bush, because you aren’t going to be weeding and maintaining regularly? Would you love to spend an hour or two a week in an edible garden growing zucchini and green beans? Do you want to make your garden your retirement hobby, and buy a mule and a plow to live off the land? Set yourself up for success and do your research before you till the soil.

t There is a little bit of a nature girl hidden in my urban swag. I appreciate growing a little something all the time. There is no technology, deadline, absolute or monetary reward; it feels good to find and nurture her. Your inner gardener is in there, too. Let her out so you can try a homegrown spinach leaf.

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