Planting the Seeds of Self-reliance

  • 16 March 2011

With a little time and patience, anyone can be successful at container gardening.

Article Highlights

  • Any old container, such as a bucket or juice bottle, can become part of a container garden.
  • Use old shelves or stacking bins to make better use of vertical space.
  • Make sure the plants get sufficient light and adequate water.
  • Be patient. It may take a few tries.

“There have been very few years in my life when I have not been responsible for a garden. Even now as a city condominium dweller, I still plant and harvest a garden each year . . . . Each spring as I look over an insignificant, small seed and place it in a well-prepared seed bed, I marvel at how much it will produce.” —Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve, “The Law of the Harvest,” New Era, Oct.1980, 4

Many Church members live in apartments or small homes with no yard space for a garden plot. Others live in dry regions where the soil is barren. Some feel that they do not have the time or financial means to grow their own food. Yet with faith, diligence, patience, and a little creativity, anyone can succeed in gardening. 

As members prayerfully consider the counsel to plant gardens and search for ways to be obedient to this principle, they will be amazed at the solutions they find. Here are some experiences and advice from members who have followed the counsel to plant a garden.

Gardening on a Budget

While living in a small, townhouse apartment, Noelle Campbell, of Houston, Texas, discovered that most of the materials she needed to plant a garden were right in her own home. On her patio, she began planting vegetables in used containers—anything from laundry soap containers to kitty litter buckets. 

She was amazed at the amount of food she could produce in the small containers. She then expanded her garden, still using materials collected from her home. Old bookshelves and bins became a vertical garden. The frame of an old personal-sized trampoline is now used to support beans, peas and other climbing plants. She even uses old grills from barbecues to keep her tomatoes from leaning.

“I love the challenge of container gardening, of seeing my patio transformed from a tiny 8-foot-by-8-foot (2.5-meters-by-2.5-meters) concrete slab into a green, living, producing garden,” Noelle says. 

Using Containers

In Alberta, Canada, Shirley Martin knows from experience that you can grow just about any kind of plant in a container as simple as reused soda or juice bottles. She says the key to a successful container garden is adequate lighting, even if it is only a window or a lamp designed to promote plant growth, and watering more often, as containers dry out much more quickly than a garden does. 

“This year,” Shirley says, “I am growing a kitchen garden in a few pots on my deck complete with some herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, chives, and a pepper. Your imagination is the limit.”

Learning by Doing

Kwan Wah Kam of Hong Kong first decided to plant a garden to supplement her home storage. She had never attempted to grow her own food but assumed she could learn all she needed to know by reading books. 

Although the information she found was helpful, Kwan soon discovered that the greatest lessons she learned came through the process of actually planting the garden. With each additional year of experience, she has learned more about the best soil to use for different seeds, how to distinguish between good seeds and bad seeds, different ways to water and fertilize plants, and the best seasons to grow various vegetables. 

The lessons Kwan learned were not limited to gardening alone, however. One evening, a terrible storm threatened to destroy her garden. In the morning, she was surprised to discover that the plants were not damaged, but instead, grew stronger from the additional water. 

“From that experience, I learned that with faith in God, we can become stronger as we face our trials and difficulties with courage,” Kwan says. “The blessings I have received from gardening are both temporal and spiritual.”