The productivity of gardening

I’ve learned in the past year that there are a lot of ways to be productive. This can be a pitfall–checking tasks off your to-do list is indeed satisfying, but are you checking off the items with the highest priority? Perhaps not. E.g., I feel productive when I cook and clean and do laundry, and, while attending to such things is absolutely important, they should not substitute for the satisfaction of completing a freelancing assignment or editing a first draft.

Still, it is important to attend to those small tasks and celebrate achievements outside of the professional realm. Cooking satisfies a particular cluster of needs in me; I’ve blogged about that before. It is a creative process; it is a precise process; it is a patient process. Even when I’m negotiating the total mess I’ve made in the kitchen, there’s something very meditative about cooking.

Gardening reaps similar psychological rewards, I think. I’m particularly enamored with growing vegetables and herbs, although the purely aesthetic experience of growing non-edible flowers obviously has its place, too. But there’s a long, connective experience between vegetable gardening and cooking, perhaps especially when you don’t eat meat. For me, vegetables aren’t side dishes: they’re the focus, the centerpiece, the main course.


We have access to excellent vegetables even without growing our own–one of the distinct benefits of living in small farm country. But I’m glad we also keep an organic garden. This year we’ve had huge numbers of zucchini, cherry tomatoes, okra, eggplant, and peppers. We also have an absurd amount of basil–I’ve been eating pesto all summer.

It’s not just, of course, that the food is good. It’s the attention it requires: watering, weeding, harvesting. We don’t pick everything–we can’t eat or even give away everything we grow. I’m always a little sad to see something wither on the vine, but the birds and bugs don’t mind and better for them to eat it than no one. I’ve taken to roasting the cherry tomatoes because there have been so, so many, even now in early September.


It’s been too warm to transition the garden over to fall and winter vegetables, but we’ll do that soon. Autumn is coming but it still looks and feels like summer. Which is okay–for now.

What is your preferred meditative activity?


2 thoughts on “The productivity of gardening

  1. I got to dig sweet potatoes out of our barrels last weekend. ❤ They look wonderful. I think to me at least gardening doesn't only feel productive, but fulfilling. It's such a fundamental connection to earth.

    • We haven’t dug ours out yet, but then we did plant them after yours.

      In this case, I mean productive less as the post-industrial “I did a thing!” and more like…the very grounding and rewarding act of making something slowly and deliberately. It is fulfilling. And yes, more so because it’s so connected to the earth and life and living things.

      Except for Japanese beetles. They can go die in a fire.

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