This morning I woke up and checked on my babies. No, not the human kind. The plant kind. I said good morning and felt giddy that I was about to enter a new season of watching my “babies” grow up. I’ve become one of “those people.”
All weekend long I worked on my backyard, which included another trip to pick up (free) mulch from a nearby recycling center (I’ve been doing this for weeks but can only do about 2 lawn bags at a time, because it’s a LOT of work), a trip to Home Depot (to pick up seedlings, a garden hose, propane for my BBQ, spray paint for my old and faded fold-up outdoor dining chairs), pulling up weeds with my garden hoe (would that be hoe’ing?), planting, having a big fight with the giant rosemary bush as I was trying to hook up the new garden hose (I have scratches everywhere to prove it), and more!
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you got to witness the progress over the last month, and I’m still not quite done! I still need a table for the deck (the chairs look AMAZING with just a can of spray paint), more mulch, and maybe one more string of lights for the tree. The thing is though…I’m LOVING the process of bringing my backyard* to life…and doing it FRUGALLY as well!
Why I Love It
I don’t have many regrets in life, but one I do have is not taking advantage of learning all the wonderful skills my grandparent’s possessed. While my grandma was an amazing cook (I really miss her Hungarian cooking!), my grandpa was a skilled craftsman, and also always had the most amazing garden.
The skill was also passed on to my dad, who ever since I can remember had a garden and tons of veggies. It’s the kind of thing that as a kid you just don’t appreciate very much, which makes me want to kick myself because now I’m learning by trial and error…mostly error.
But as I get older and now spend most of my days on my butt under a fluorescent light, I loooooooove being able to take time to connect with nature, even in the smallest way. Here are some other hidden benefits I have discovered about being able to create an outside frugal garden and sanctuary.
It Makes My Space Seem Bigger
Not too many renters I know here in LA have as much outdoor space as I do. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to move to my place (it’s a one-story triplex). Not only that, but my landlord lets me do pretty much whatever the hell I want with the space.
My apartment itself is fairly small, which is fine with me, but having all that outdoor space just makes me feel like I have more square footage to just do things like eat, cook, have a glass of wine…have a glass of wine AND read, without having to be indoors. And it’s so peaceful (save for the occasional 747 plane taking off at nearby LAX).
I Achieve a State of Flow (aka The Zone)
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of being in the flow state, this Wikipedia site describes it as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
I’m not thinking about anything else except the task at hand when I’m shoveling, planting, hoe’ing (lol), fighting rosemary bushes, etc. It’s not often that I’m doing an activity where I achieve that state, and it’s wonderful!
You burn calories. “Heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour. Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour. Gardening: pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour. Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour,” according to WebMD. ‘Nuff said.
It’s a Lo-Fi Activity
Ever try to check your email or Instagram when you’re knee-deep in top soil? Yeah, not going to happen. The only thing I used my phone for this weekend was music. I had Eye of the Tiger on while I was fighting the rosemary bush (I mean seriously, I have so many scratches!). Normally it’s hard for me (and probably you) to pull yourself away from technology, so this kind of forces you to do that.
It’s Incredibly Rewarding to Watch Things Grow
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store, I don’t pick up a tomato and wonder about it’s journey from tiny plant at some farm, to Ralph’s. I just put it in my cart. When you grow something though, you think quite differently about it. You have a sense of pride and appreciate it. You savor it more and yes, it actually does taste better and fresher. It’s a feeling I think you can only get if you’ve ever grown anything yourself.
You Feel Accomplished…and Pooped at the End of the Day
Does anyone else just love exhausting themselves physically (in a good way) like I do? I LOVE feeling like I put in a hard day’s work (that doesn’t involve hitting goals or writing reports) and then getting to sit back and enjoy the fruit’s of my labor…and a cold beer! It’s not unlike doing a really tough hike, running a really long or hard race, etc. You feel happily exhausted at the end of the day.
But That All Sounds So Expensive!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the financial aspect of creating an outdoor sanctuary and/or garden. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be expensive! I have spent less than $200 on absolutely everything. I’ve had to get creative (including finding 4 palm plants in the to-be-mulched pile, and have utilized tons of things old neighbors have planted and/or left behind when they moved), but being resourceful is part of the challenge…and the fun.
Believe me, with what I have done it could have cost me SO. MUCH. MORE. But since I rent, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t losing out financially when and if I ever move.
Do you enjoy gardening? What part of gardening resonates with you the most?
*I share my backyard with two other tenants in my triplex building.