The love of gardening grows in many, but others may find they don’t have much of a green thumb. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener, or you’re just planting your first seeds Latter-day Saint Charities invites anyone to foster principles of self-reliance through growing and producing their own food.
This year a Latter-day Saint Charities partner, myAgro helped Senegal native Awa Thiall plant a garden in the small space next to her home. Before her garden, Awa would go to her local market to purchase okra for her family as she valued the benefits of feeding greens to her children. After getting started in her garden Awa found that she had enough for to feed her family, and leftover produce to sell. With her earnings she continues to purchase a variety of nutritional food.
“My children have healthy vegetable to eat everyday thanks to my okra field and myAgro. I will never stop growing okra now!” Awa said.
Steve and Marla Lundgren felt this same satisfaction with their fresh produce grown at their home in Utah. When the couple moved to Hawaii from Utah, they found their living circumstances to be very different. Their home in Utah had land and a climate conducive to gardening. In Hawaii, they lived in an apartment with a small patio.
When they first arrived, Steve said, “We tried to grow tomatoes on our patio. It didn’t go well with the salty air and insects.” Steve missed his home garden, and Marla missed the cheaper produce prices in Utah.
“In Hawaii, lettuce would cost us almost four dollars a head,” said Marla.
However, their failed garden and different living circumstances didn’t get the best of them. They found another way. Steve and Marla visited a local farm-to-table café where they learned about hydroponic gardening—gardening that uses a solution of water and nutrients instead of soil.
Hydroponic gardens can be created with materials you already have or purchased as a pre-packaged kit. These gardens consist of seeds or plants, a container with a lid, netted pots, and nutrients. In hydroponic gardening, with the right amount of indoor or outdoor light, nutrients, and water, your plants can grow faster, healthier, and bigger than many other methods of growing food.
Within two weeks of planting, Steve and Marla grew six full heads of lettuce.
“We had fresh lettuce for three months without having to do hardly anything to the plants,” Marla said. “We would cut a few leaves off for our salads, and then the leaves would replenish.”
When their garden was on their patio, Steve said, “With all the rain in Hawaii, the plants would literally water themselves.” And the best part? They had fresh, delicious lettuce at their fingertips year-round without having to pay expensive market prices.
For someone starting a garden for the first time, Steve said, “Start small and simple. Pick your favorite vegetable or the easiest vegetable or herb to grow. Once you’ve had success, it builds your confidence to do more and to keep going with it.”
Throughout the world, there are many possibilities for gardening and unique ways of cultivating resilient vegetation. From the most crowded areas of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Hong Kong to the extreme climates of Cape Verde and Altiplano, Bolivia, gardens have grown.
“Plants are resilient and can grow anywhere with the right sunlight, temperatures, and modifications,” said Wade Sperry, an agronomist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gardens can be grown by beginners or experts. They can consist of one basil plant bought from your local grocery store or a backyard of raised garden beds and fruit trees.
Regardless of location or type, gardens provide sustenance, nutrition, self-reliance, and enjoyment. “Gardens can be a lot of work but there is satisfaction in being able to grow something and see it come to fruition,” Wade said.
You can have successful gardens even with minimal space, money, or experience. “A successful garden starts with the basics.” Wade said. “You need new seed, fertile soil with adequate drainage, sunlight, and the right temperature.”
With desire and a little creativity, anyone can sow the seeds and reap the harvest of a garden. “I have seen individuals in wheelchairs and with crutches in Chiapas, Mexico, getting into the soil and weeding, and beautiful gardens in Mozambique tended by children who are blind,” said Wade.
Shelley Henson, manager of training for Welfare and Self-Reliance Services encourages anyone to “Grow something nutritious and then eat it!” Shelley said as we grow food in our kitchen windowsills, balconies, and backyards, we will build self-reliance along with experience, better health and well-being. “We will improve food security in our communities, make them more sustainable, and have fun while we do it!” Shelley said.
During times of crisis—whether it be unemployment, a community disaster, or a pandemic—gardens are one way to supplement your food supply. The most important step of all is to begin.