“There is a great work for the Saints to do. Progress and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. . . . Make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations.”
- Brigham Young, Deseret News, Aug. 8, 1860, 177.
I am a gardener, and I never thought I’d say that.
In the past, gardening was always something I associated with the mature folk, with retirement and stiff knees, with everybody but me—with people who had extra time on their hands. But then, all of the sudden, I found myself wanting to garden last summer. I was a new mom and despite the demands of an infant, I knew that changing to be a stay-at-home mom suddenly opened up enough time in my life to garden. Even more surprising than that, I actually wanted to do it. And I didn’t even want to do it for provident living, self-reliance, or any other commandment—just for the joy of it.
I’ve thought about whether my intrinsic gardening desires are manifestations of a heritage from generations of agrarian ancestors across the centuries, but I think that it’s more likely that wanting to plant, cultivate, nurture, and harvest is an endowment from my heavenly ancestry. Elder Uchtdorf has said, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. . . . Your very spirits are fashioned by an endlessly creative and eternally compassionate God” (“Happiness, Your Heritage,” October 2008 General Conference). I have found that, as Elder Uchtdorf said, “Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment” in gardening.
This year I planned my little garden and bought seeds in February because I was so excited about it. I started growing plants from seed indoors in March, and I’m growing twice as much as I’m going to plant so I can give my extra starts away to friends who might need help starting their garden.
I am so excited about this joy that I’ve found. I feel like people in my life talked about the joy of gardening to me for years and I never listened, but now I want to share it with everyone. If gardening doesn’t seem like your thing; if you never, ever picture yourself in galoshes, gloves, and a straw hat; if you can’t bear to get your hands dirty and don’t care about where your vegetables come from, I still encourage you to give gardening a try—this year.
Maybe you have a backyard to fill, maybe, like me, you only have a tiny plot of earth to work with, or maybe you only have one little pot of basil. Whatever your situation, give it a try and share in the joy of the miracle of creation. These are the top five reasons I think you should.
1. Get Outside
Gardening got me outside last summer. As a new mother, I needed the fresh air, the sunshine, and the green grass to help me cope with all the changes I needed to handle in my life. We all have changes and challenges going in our lives, and whose trials can’t be helped with a little sunshine and fresh air? The world is for our enjoyment and is so full of beauty. Gardening might be just the thing to get you out there and enjoying it.
2. Be Grateful
I have an aunt who gardens with her middle school class. She reports that there have been students in her class who honestly didn’t know where produce from the grocery store came from—that it originated in the ground or on a bush, tree, or vine. That’s not how I want my children to be raised, but who is going to teach them unless I do by gardening?
Doing the work yourself can help you appreciate food and farmers, technology and agriculture, but above all gardening has taught me what a miracle life and growing and the whole world are—all as a gift from God. Yes, I did make a garden box, filled it with dirt, planted seeds, weeded and watered, but in the end I still can’t believe that a dozen carrots appeared in the ground. It was such a miracle. I can’t wait to watch it happen again.
3. Feel Pretty
The only flowers we planted last year were marigolds to help keep the bad bugs away. Marigolds: bright and smelly. The bees loved them, though, and that flattered me enough to make me love the bees.
No matter what you plant—flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs, grass, whatever—gardens are beautiful. I felt happy every time I saw my pretty little 7’x2’ garden. The world always needs more beauty: Plant a garden.
4. Enjoy the Fruits
Oh, the vegetables of my labors. My father-in-law always says, “Now this is a tomato!” at least a zillion times every summer after they pull in their massive tomato crop. I never really believed him until I ate my own home-grown carrots. My life will never be the same. Plant a garden and enjoy the fruits of your labors!
5. Unify Your Family
The Home and Family Relations manual says, “Families who work together in a home garden build family unity because they share a common purpose.” Even though my family consists of me, my husband, and my baby, I found this to be true. I love letting my baby play alongside my garden. It makes me feel like he’s helping even though he’s too small because I know that one day he will help. Even though my husband works all day and doesn’t have much time for the garden, calling it “our garden” means that I tell him all about its progress and point out all the growth to him, even if he only has time to help out on an occasional Saturday. President Kimball said, “There is so much to . . . harvest from your garden, far more than just a crop itself!” (Ensign, May 1978, 79). I have found this to be true even in my little family.
I am a gardener of exactly seven cubic feet of earth, plus a few random flower pots. I wouldn’t call my thumb exactly green, but I guess that gives me something to aspire to when I’m mature, retired, and have too much time on my hands (which we know will probably never happen).
The Lord has said, “All things which come of the earth . . . are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart” (D&C 59:18). I have tasted of that joy; I have had my heart filled with gladness from my garden. I hope you can experience it too.