Gardens, like this one at a busy intersection near Kodiak College, show that everyone has a “why” when it comes to gardening.

What’s Your Why?

Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you make spaghetti? Why do you garden?

“Everyone has a Why,” says Simon Sinek, author of several books including, “Leaders Eat Last” and “Start with Why.”

“Your Why,” he says, “is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do.”

When you know why you are doing something, it makes every decision in your journey, project, service or movement, easier.

I grow a garden for many reasons. Maybe a few of these strike a familiar chord for you:

1. To relax and feel peace

2. To improve the looks of your property

3. To grow your own food

4. To exercise and be outside

5. To feel connected to nature

6. To learn something new

7. To inspire and uplift others

The other day, I was reminded of why I garden during my walk from our house to Safeway. Along Mission Road, I brushed against salmonberry leaves, shriveled and tinged with autumn bronze. Dried alder and cottonwood leaves crunched with each step. Time to rake leaves for the compost pile, I reminded myself.

A black lab barked through a cyclone fence near the Salvation Army. I ducked into a friend’s hoophouse to marvel at her kale “trees.” At the Baptist Mission, a pig grunted as I walked by. Across the street, woodcutters split logs on the beach. Salt air mixed strangely with the smell of chainsaws and fresh sawdust.

I hoofed up Benny Benson and at the top of the hill I stopped to wait for passing cars and trucks. A splash of yellow and orange caught my eye. As I turned to acknowledge the color, I found myself standing in a driveway.

The garden was a raised berm, hip-height, that ran the length of the driveway to the house tucked in the spruce trees. Plants of all colors, textures and shapes. Calendula, pink cosmos, and purple I-don’t-know-whats were jammed in, magically supporting each other.

Someone loves this garden, I thought. Thank you.

As I paused by the stop sign gazing at the chorus line of flowers, I began to relax. Gardens are tended not only for the gardener’s benefit, but also for passers-by like me. Dear Gardener at this intersection, thank you for following your Why.

Why I garden came up again the next day when I stopped by the public library on Saturday to lend a hand. A work party had gathered to spruce up the landscaped areas, long overdue for a serious weeding and re-planting.

As I shoveled dirt and sprinkled it around the rose bushes, I heard comments from patrons visiting the library:

“Wow, you’re planting bulbs! Something to look forward to next spring.”

“Oh, good. This beautiful building deserves a nice outside.”

After pulling weeds and tilling the soil a bit, the next project was to top the beds with composted mulch. The extra layer would feed the plants in the months to come and provide insulation from our notorious-freeze-thaw periods.

The Why of Composting

Which, dear readers, brings me to a timely reminder: We’ve all seen the result from unprotected soil: Dead salmonberries and rhododendrons, desiccated spruce trees, and long-tended perennials that never emerge again. True, snow is a good insulator, but we’ve not experienced “real winters for a long time,” one ski enthusiast lamented last week.

Which means making compost and mulching your garden is more important than ever. And fall—not spring—is the ideal time to prepare your garden for next season. I’ll be talking about these topics in upcoming weeks. For starters, here a few timely tips to inspire you to action:

1. Pull weeds. Promise your plants and yourself that you’ll do this!

2. Collect leaves, the foundation of good compost and mulch. Bag them up for making compost this fall and stash some for mixing with grass clippings next summer.

3. Prepare beds for planting spring bulbs and garlic.

4. Harvest stuff. Don’t wait. Put it up, in the freezer, in jars.

Simon Sinek has been described as an unshakable optimist. I’ll be ordering his book, “Together is Better,” an illustrated fable about a boy who takes a stand for what he believes in.

Was pulling weeds and digging up rocks at the library easy work? “It was a back-breaking success, said librarian Laurie Madsen. “But thank you to all these retired teachers and their spouses and a few other friends who came and lent a hand. Stop by, it looks a hundred percent better.”

Why do you garden?

Learn more Whys of gardening, how and why to take better photos, and learn new, healthy, and easy recipes, through my special mailing list. send me an email to You’re also invited to visit my blog at

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