This month, Backyard Gardener Corinne shares her reflections on starting a garden in uncertain times, as well as some words of encouragement for folks thinking about doing the same.

The year 2020 was a whirlwind of emotions for many people. No matter which stance you took on the choices made for us during that time, there was a looming sense of uncertainty.

Many of us were confined to our homes, only able to leave for work and groceries. Supply chains worldwide came to a slowdown or an outright halt, heightening the worry for what was to come. Though my curiosity for gardening started as a small child, spending countless hours in my grandmother’s flower gardens, I did not make the time or effort to start growing plants until the pandemic.

With all this extra time on my hands and the desire to ensure my family would have enough nourishment, given things got worse, I made a garden plan. Our home is near the top of a ridge in the Ohio Valley. Luckily, the yard is south-facing; However, being on the forest’s edge leaves much of our property sloped and shaded. The flat areas are coveted spaces for the children to play, and I didn’t want to sacrifice them regardless of their utility. Thinking back, I remember learning how the ancient Mayan culture successfully used terraced gardening to supply their community with food. Though this takes much more blood, sweat, and tears to accomplish, we decided this was the way for us. So, using wood planks and iron rods, we retained a 10×20 space for the first plot.

The first year was hectic, to say the least. Because I was a beginner, I needed help understanding the best layout of planting, how to keep up with weeds, the benefits of mulching and pruning, and I could just go on. To top that off, the wildlife surrounding us consumed more of the harvest than we could gather. Thoughts of quitting were setting up camp in my mind that whole first year. I didn’t believe I had what it took and thought I wouldn’t continue on the following year. But by the end of the season, we had a massive harvest of potatoes! The satisfaction of digging each potato out of the dirt made me feel like a child collecting Easter eggs. Even better was my pride when my family was excited to see the bounty.

Here’s the thing, with any new venture, there will be numerous trials and tribulations that need to be faced to succeed. Fear of failure will creep into your mind whenever a roadblock is thrown at you, but nothing worth savoring is easy. I realized it wasn’t just the food yield I was after at the end of the day. Gardening keeps my mind hopeful through the dark winter months. It excites me to think of prepping the beds in early spring. Digging deep into the dirt to get those first seeds calms my anxiety. It satisfies when those first buds break out into the open air. And knowing I can partially fulfill my family’s nutritional needs gives me peace of mind.

Now, just a few years later, we have the addition of another same-sized vegetable garden, apple trees, raspberries, blackberries, figs, and many random spots of herbs growing throughout the property. They may not produce enough to sustain us now. Still, as I continue to care for the garden and give it what it needs, it will undoubtedly flourish and provide nourishment and a deep sense of fulfillment and connection to the natural world. It’s a testament to the power of patience, nurturing, and faith in nature’s abundance. So, if you are considering starting a garden, here is your sign. It can improve your family’s health and the environment around you. Start small, don’t sweat the setbacks, and enjoy every precious moment.