Investing in growing things pays dividends


It seems to me that this time of year lotsa folks are investing – but not in stocks, bonds or real estate. Nope, they are putting their proverbial time, talent and treasure into something else – flowers and other growing things such as their decorative bushes and trees, their lawns, and, of course, their vegetable gardens. As with other investments, folks expect a return for their ventures and that’s surely the case here but the dividends show up in several different ways.

Studies have shown that working with growing plants is a therapeutic exercise in itself, that is, the activity has as a beneficial and calming effect on people. Apparently there is something about planting, cultivating and tending to vegetation that appeals to some inner instinct. That notion sure shows up as the weather gets more favorable and we see folks busy with their yards, pruning back dead growth from their bushes and trees, cleaning up debris left by winter, and actively getting things ready for this year’s flower and vegetable growing season.

Although it’s still early, I already have purchased a number of bags of mulch to replenish that from last year and of garden soil to re-nourish my flower and vegetable beds. Potting soil for my hanging baskets and patio-type containers will wait until we decide which flowers to grow where this year. Yep, there’s apparently something inside us that can only be satisfied by “playing in the dirt.”

Okay, but what about other “returns” from investing in flowers and such? Well, a sense of accomplishment is one – and two stories come to mind to illustrate that point. Mike the Barber’s nice-sized patch of sunflowers was his pride and joy for many years. I once asked Mike why he grew them each year. His response was that he liked sunflowers and so he planted them where he could see them as he worked in his shop. His dividend was enjoying his beautiful flowers. Mike confided in me that one day he saw a guy who was obviously starting to cut some off some sunflowers and so he rushed out and demanded to know what the guy thought he was doing. The response from the culprit was that he liked sunflowers and thought he would just cut off a few.

Well, according to Mike, he “explained” in no uncertain terms that the sunflowers were his – he had grown them himself – and that if the guy wanted his own sunflowers he should do the same.Oh, Mike liked to share the beauty of his sunflowers with the thousands of passers by but the flowers were the product of his investment and not to be physically shared – except for the birds who enjoyed the sunflower seeds in the fall.

Okay, moving on. Before we downsized and moved to our present home I had a pretty good sized vegetable garden with red, yellow, and cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, beans, and such. “Jeff”, our across-the-street grade school age neighbor, used to help me with the garden all the way from preparing the beds to harvesting – and I mean he really helped even with the weeding.

Anyway, one day we were putting together some tomatoes and other stuff for him to take home when a neighbor girl about Jeff’s age kinda dropped by and asked if she could have some vegetables too. Before I could reply, Jeff jumped in with something like this, “No! You can’t. You had the chance to help when I asked you but you wouldn’t. You even made fun of me because I got kinda dirty when I was working in the garden. If you don’t work, you don’t deserve to get any.” Wow! I might have given her some, but Jeff was firm.

If you refuse to work, don’t expect someone else to give you a handout from the results of their work. Sounds kinda harsh, doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily because on the other hand, Jeff thought it was just fine if we shared our harvest with another neighbor, a widow who struggled taking care of her two children. Yep, this was a philosophy of economics derived by a grade school boy from his experience working in a garden. “No freeloading, but help the less fortunate.” How about them apples?

Well, Mike’s been gone for several years but his family has continued to plant and tend his sunflower garden as a kinda living memorial and so folks passing by can enjoy the beauty of the flowers. As for Jeff, he’s grown up and moved away, but returns to visit hereabouts every so often. The last time I saw him I asked if he remembered working together in the garden. His answer was something like, “Yeah. I had fun and learned a lot.” We both did. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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