So I did. It was a good thing the Prophet did not command us to GROW a garden, or to EAT from a garden, because if he had, I’d have felt like a failure some years. He just commanded us to TRY. The cool thing is, that every year I tried, SOMETHING grew that was usable, and that made it worth the effort. Sometimes only one thing produced, but something always did. One year, we had a bumper crop of green tomatoes, and I learned to make green tomato salsa and relish. I don’t know if I’d have learned that if we had perfect crops that year.
No matter where you live, or what the limitations of your life, there is something edible you can grow. It may be a tray of sprouts on the kitchen counter (no specialized equipment to buy, you can make a sprouter from recycled items), or it may be a pot of herbs or lettuce on the porch. You may need to cloak your food in the guise of landscaping if you live in a covenant community that frowns on vegetable gardens. You may have room for a garden but not nearly as much room as you need to really supply the needs of your family.
You CAN grow a garden that does more than you think it can. By using intensive gardening strategies, getting creative with garden supplies, and by taking advantage of year-round gardening techniques which can be used anywhere in the world, you can grow more than you thought, in less space than you thought, and with far less work and expense than you’d think, even if you get started later than you really ought to for your area.
We grew gardens in a number of challenging environments.
- I grew up gardening in Washington State, on the green side, where heat loving crops never quite mature, but where there is sufficient water to make weeds grow and three times the rate of the things you actually wanted to nurture.
- I gardened in Central Washington where dirt spontaneously morphs into sprouting tumbleweed seeds the minute any moisture at all hits it, where food grows generally well, but the temperatures change very rapidly from cold to hot in the spring, presenting growth challenge for your crops that don’t seem to affect the tumbleweeds at all!
- Wyoming was plagued with alkaline sandy clay soil, high altitude, short growing season, rapid temperature changes, deer, and rabbits. And one year, grasshoppers so bad that not a blade of anything green remained after they decimated our back yard (we got even though, we brought in ducks). We grew broccoli in that Wyoming garden into the end of November, long after deep freezes were regular, and grew fresh vegetable crops in an unheated greenhouse well into December when daytime temps were well below freezing.
- We planted late in Texas, and still managed to grow a garden that produced about $1200 worth of produce in a three month period, from an investment of about $50. We got more of the garden than the bugs did.
- Our Oklahoma gardens were container gardens. Trays of crops in an unheated greenhouse produced through the winter (frozen solid in the morning, but perky and growing again by lunch time), and pots outside in the spring with salad and herb crops. It was all we could do that year, so we did.
I’ve never been a tidy and aggressive gardener, I’m fairly casual about it. My planting blocks are crowded, the garden is always a little weedier than the pros think it ought to be, and conditions are always far less than perfect. Yet we manage to produce good food, with far less cost and work than is generally demanded by the seed packets and instructional manuals.
A garden may be the difference for some people between financial survival and failure, and for many, it may provide health benefits that affect you and bless you with blessings you don’t even know you need. The produce from your garden is tax-free, and benefits your family in ways that go far beyond the food on the table. The experience of planting, weeding, watering, waiting, harvesting, and preparing food with your own hands is a remarkable lesson for children that teaches them far more than mere gardening. The Scriptures are filled with gardening metaphors, and with good reason. A garden may be the solution to more problems in your life than you realize.
Hard times are coming. They will be both temporally and spiritually hard. I am convinced that following the counsel of the prophet to plant a garden will help us in both respects. That knowing how to grow food is every bit as critical to our survival in these latter days as having a food storage. Indeed, for those who struggle with obtaining and maintaining a food storage, a garden may provide solutions in ways you did not consider.
Start with a packet of lettuce and a place to put it. If you don’t do anything else, try that, and see what happens.
It just might provide a miracle.
Laura Wheeler is a prolific writer, and resides in the Tulsa Oklahoma Stake. She is the mother of eight children, a web designer, and natural foods and farming enthusiast. Laura is the author of Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere, a simple and encouraging book to help people feel more able to garden no matter what their circumstances. You can find her book at Firelight Heritage Farm.