In 1976, as part of a general conference address on family preparedness, President Spencer W. Kimball said, “We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. Berry bushes, grapevines, fruit trees—plant them if your climate is right for their growth. Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard. Even those residing in apartments … can generally grow a little food in pots and planters. Study the best methods of providing your own foods. Make your garden … neat and attractive as well as productive. If there are children in your home, involve them in the process with assigned responsibilities.”
President Kimball actually recommended gardening in several talks he gave that conference weekend, and other Church leaders like Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone and Sister Barbara B. Smith encouraged gardening in subsequent general conference addresses, too.
Then in the Church’s Primary Songbook released in 1982, the song “The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden” was included, reminding children and families how and why Church leaders encouraged this element of self-reliance.
But does this counsel first given nearly 50 years ago still apply today? The last time it was mentioned in a general conference address was in October 1981 by President Ezra Taft Benson. But we were surprised to find that the Church’s Gospel Topics page still has a section all about gardening. Here’s what it says:
“Self-reliance is a product of our work and undergirds all other welfare practices. It is an essential element in our spiritual as well as our temporal well-being” (Thomas S. Monson, “Guiding Principles of Personal and Family Welfare,” Liahona, Feb. 1987, 5).
Planting a garden, even a small one, allows for a greater degree of self-reliance. With the right information and a little practice, individuals and entire families can enjoy the many benefits of planting and tending a garden.
The following information is provided to help you prepare your garden.
Planning a Garden
As you begin to plan and prepare for a garden, here are a few general reminders:
- Vegetables need at least six hours of sunlight a day.
- The garden site should be relatively level. If there is a steep slope, run rows of plants across it to prevent erosion.
- It is a good idea to spade (mix) the soil to a depth of 12 to 14 inches. Adding organic matter such as manure, peat moss, or leaves will benefit the soil.
- Be careful with fertilizer. All fertilizers have a three-digit code. For vegetable gardens, look for 8-8-8 or 16-16-16.
- The simplest way to eliminate plant pests is to remove insects, worms, or eggs by hand. Some shake-on powder or liquid bug sprays are relatively safe to use.
- Proper depth for planting seeds is approximately four times as deep as the seed is thick.
Gardening in Containers
If you don’t have a traditional garden plot, you can plant vegetables and herbs in containers that fit on driveways, balconies, roofs, and even window sills. This activity can be interesting and rewarding for adults and children alike.
So while the Church may not be overtly encouraging gardening as a consistent source of fresh food or part of your family’s larger emergency preparedness plan, it still recognizes and promotes the positive aspects of planting a garden—the obvious temporal benefits of home-grown food, the principles of self-reliance it can teach, and the sense of accomplishment it can bring to families.
Like the Primary song says, a garden can remind us of “this beautiful world Heavenly Father created for me,” and it can give us unparalleled opportunities for instruction and joy as we witness the miracle of growth at our own hands. President Spencer W. Kimball said that gardening will “remind us all of the law of the harvest. … We do reap what we sow. Even if the plot of soil you cultivate, plant, and harvest is a small one, it brings human nature closer to nature as was the case in the beginning with our first parents.”