Oh what to do in May? I have thought all month long about what I wanted to share with you in ‘Building Family Traditions’. What really comes to mind are our gardens! Yes, our gardens. After all, they are a family affair, aren’t they? What a wonderful way to teach our children good work habits with a cheerful and thankful heart and appreciation for where things come from as well as the satisfaction of seeing the rewards of our hard work.
Helen Hayes once said, “ All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig with fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirit soars.”
Isn’t that how you feel? Right after Christmas the first garden catalogs start coming and you almost feel that little childlike excitement grow within you.
“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides” W.E. Johns – The Passing Show
The hunger and need for man to dig in the dirt comes at an early age. Do you know any 2- year old that isn’t happy playing in the dirt?
Gandhi felt, “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”
Yes, it is hard work, and sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get help out in the garden but the rewards are so worth it.
Our Prophets have asked us to have a garden, and what a great opportunity to teach obedience, self-reliance, gratitude and sharing with our neighbors!
Pres. Kimball (April 1976 Conference Report) called upon ‘Latter-day Saints everywhere to produce their own food.’ He understood that some of that might be in containers and pots not just in garden beds, but there are lessons and skills to be learned as well as the simple act of obedience and showing our children that we listen to what the prophet says and then we do it!
What are the rewards? There are several:
Family Unity – you are teaching your children the rewards of their labor, the gift of work. Side by side working also allows time for those precious teaching moments, you have their undivided attention, a captive audience, and the chance to let nature be the teacher. The garden’s wide-open spaces and its quiet beauty provide a non-threatening environment for your children to open up to you and to share their hearts.
Self-sufficiency – isn’t it wonderful to be able to go out into your own garden and choose dinner? A garden helps us also develop confidence that we can take care of ourselves if we need to. We also learn that ‘we reap what we sow’ from a job well done or not.
Pleasure & Joy – a garden reminds us of a loving Heavenly Father and all that is good and beautiful in the world. We have been told that, “Men are that they might have joy…” Pres. Monson has told us to, “Enjoy the Journey”. I believe this is true in all the paths we walk in our lives.
Hanna Rion believed, “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” Isn’t that the truth? It makes you slow down and actually take time to smell the roses, as well as provides a place and the moments for us to receive the answers to questions we have been pondering. It opens the door to inspiration when we slow down “to listen and to see”.
Health – We KNOW what we have put in our soil and on our plants. Growing and eating our own fresh vegetables and fruits is healthier. We also can watch what we do and use to store those goodies for our families.
Reduced Expenses – this one has been argued by many as to the actual costs of raising and working in a garden than just buying off the shelf. You will have to weigh that yourself. I also take into account what money cannot buy like the rewards listed here, and then I think –yes, it is worth it. For our family, I do believe it does save us money through the garden season as well as provides fresh vegetables and fruits all summer long; more than I would normally be able to provide for my family if I had to solely rely on going to the store. I suppose you could help your kids set up a little road side stand and sell your excess to help offset the costs of the seeds etc.
Opportunities to share –have more than you need? Share or trade with those around you, neighbors and families.
Therapy – the garden is a great place for reflection, to quietly talk to “Father”, and to vent frustrations as you pull and tug on those nasty weeds. When you are out in the garden it’s hard to be angry for too long as you gaze around yours and the Lord’s handiwork.
George Bernard Shaw felt, “ The best place to seek God is in a garden.”
“You can bury a lot of troubles in digging in the dirt.” Unknown
Some of my children’s favorite memories have been out digging in the garden and losing themselves to an adventure among all the green leaves and vines. A garden should be a wonderland to our children – let them be a part of the planning and the planting. After many years of frustration and feeling like I was fighting a losing battle, I came upon the idea (I didn’t come upon it by myself I am sure) of having each child choose their garden favorites to plant and they would become the caretaker/steward over those vegetables for the whole summer. They always choose their favorites and were actually excited to watch over their gardens! We encouraged them to plant flowers as well. The conditions were:
- You had to plant enough for the whole family to eat from and, hopefully, there would be something to put up for the winter as well.
- You were responsible for your garden space (usually these were divided up into some sort of shape with twine or stakes) If you didn’t take care of your garden the whole family didn’t get to enjoy that food for the year.
We still watered the garden as a whole, but they had to weed their areas (which didn’t seem so overwhelming now that they were smaller) and watch for ripe food.
We all still helped in the major harvesting. Mom and Dad took care of the bigger stuff and whatever was left over. The garden was now bite size for every one and not such an impossible mission. They were always so proud to bring in the “fruits of their labors” to share at the dinner table.
A garden also works well for a Young Woman’s project. Both of our daughters did it one year - one made a ‘Salsa Garden”, and the other pretty much took over the rest of the garden after the two younger ones chose their favorites. She is the one that came to absolutely love gardening, came to take great pride in it and worked out there for hours on her own; well past the required 10 hours.
What about the ‘little people’? We put together a little area that was ‘safe’ for them to dig in, and built a teepee from large limbs that we usually could find around the yard. Then around the base of the teepee we planted things that would climb up the ‘legs’ like scarlet runners, morning glories, beans, etc and planted some of the smaller and more colorful sunflowers around the sides and back. It was a hit! They loved having a new hiding place or a secret place to read and dig; and my garden was safe from little feet trampling the small seedlings. Once the plants got bigger it wasn’t usually an issue anymore and the kids played freely in the garden with their cars and G.I. Joes.
A garden is also a great place to set up an observation site for Science or Nature Study. We made that a fun experiment one year and our daughter learned a lot about observation skills from watching our front flower bed for a week at different times of the day. She learned to note more and more things as I would ask her questions about what she observed in that 15 min to 30 minute time span. This way she learned to be more detailed in her observations and would pay more attention to the little things going on around her. Our daughter now loves to go out into the garden with her camera and shoot all sorts of fun candid shots of bugs, vegetation, and busy little nieces and nephews. She has caught some fun pictures of insects and kids.
So, as you can see, a garden is a world of it’s own. It can be a haven for those needing peace or a hideaway from pirates. The whole idea is that a garden is a mode of expression and beauty, a place of joy. It gets us outside in the fresh air and sunshine and refreshes our spirits as well. As Abram L. Urban once said, “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are beautiful.”
Enjoy the Journey!