Living Lightly

Grow Something

Grow something

Any plant will do. Go find a plant and keep it near you. Perhaps a pretty little houseplant, perhaps an edible herb, or maybe something more.

There is nothing as able to sync our souls with the world around us like growing something. Watching things grow takes us out of our ruts, raises our eyes from the immediate, and connects us with something greater than ourselves. We realize that we too are part of the rhythms of the world.

If you want to be even more astonished, take a seed and look at it. Tiny and shriveled. How can life possibly dwell in something so dull? Yet in soil with water and sunlight, magic happens. That insignificant thing becomes this majestic source of food for body and soul. I witness it every year, and still it astonishes me. Every growing plant is part of a miracle.

This is a simple instruction. One small pot is all I’m asking.

Reasons to Grow

Connect with something bigger than yourself.

Remember that we, too, are part of the rhythms of the world.

Introduce hope and magic into your life.

Be nature’s student.

Improve your health.

With Edibles

Teach your children – and yourself – where food comes from.

Eat the freshest possible, ultimate local food.

Save money.

Season your food with the best flavoring of all: the satisfaction of growing it yourself.

With Indoor Plants

Clean your air.

Decorate your space with color, brightness and texture.

Even in the midst of chores or office work, remember the unsurpassed gorgeousness of good things growing.

Even if all you grow is one little plant, all of the above is possible.

Where to Start

As I say in many areas, start small. Start simple. A houseplant. A potted herb – basil, mint. Rosemary is hearty. Something where a couple of leaves can make a difference, even if all you do is look at them or add a few leaves to your water glass.

Don’t start with tomatoes. Tomatoes are often the poster child of the home garden, but they’re unruly, uncivilized and deceptive. They’re not for the newbie. They start as feathery little seedlings and then become massive entanglements. They scoff at those spindly structures we call tomato cages, so clearly designed by someone who had never grown a tomato. Now mind you, I do grow tomatoes, but that’s not where to start.

If you really want to try your hand at seeds, consider sugar snap peas. They grow best in cooler weather, which for me in sunny SoCal, means in the winter. They grow easily and are delicious right off the vine.

Or consider a fruit tree, which is easier than it sounds. Potted varieties are distinctive decorations for your patio. A lemon or mandarin tree is a delicious place to start.

If you want to foray into vegetables, try zucchini. But just one plant. That’ll be enough. By the end of the zucchini season, you’ll think you have gardening superpowers, but you’ll be begging it to stop producing. It’s a real confidence booster. When is the only time Southerners lock their cars? During zucchini season.

If you’re thinking…

But Lisa, I live in an apartment!

Grow in pots. I live on 2+ acres, and I still grow in pots because I don’t like to jackhammer through the decomposed granite they call “dirt” here. Pots are great. Gophers can’t eat through the bottom. There’s less to weed and to water. They’re pretty. They’re rearrangeable.

But Lisa, everything I try to grow dies!

Everything dies eventually. It’s part of the cycle of life. Many things die before we feel they should. So many life lessons in gardening. There is an element of risk when you grow something. This year, my hubby and I planted seeds. We were so excited to see those little flapjack leaves pop out of the ground. It was like watching our children grow. And then the snails ate them. All of them. Now I’ve started again with some seedlings and make nightly visits to my garden beds to relocate any snails to my far back slope.

But Lisa, aphids took over my plants!

Aha! Boy howdy, do I have a solution for you. It just so happens that this great soap I know, called “Dr. Bronner’s,” gets rid of bugs. Yes, I know it’s a body soap, but it just happens to tackle bugs, too. Mix up about 1 Tbsp. of the soap in a quart of water and spray your plants a couple times a day until the infestation is gone.

We are intrinsically and beautifully connected to the earth. Go far enough back into your ancestry, and I can guarantee that you will find farmers. Even now, however urbanized we may be, our sustenance comes from the earth.

This is not a “How To Garden” post because I am definitely not qualified.  Instead, this is a gentle nudge. Grow one thing.

Here’s a bit of what I’m growing:

Grow something

Don’t you think you could make room in your life for a little parsley plant like this?

Grow something

The front line of the 2019 Snail Invasion. Every night, I stand guard over my honeydew (and basil and peppers and cucumbers) and pluck off the infiltrators. How do you spend your evenings?

Grow something

Swiss Chard is my confidence booster. I bought a 6 pack of chard plants three years ago, and they’re still growing. The barrel is completely collapsing around them, and the plants keep growing. Green smoothie, anyone?

Grow something

My tomatoes inwardly snicker at those cages. I don’t know why I bother. By August the frames will be completely overwhelmed. This year I bought tomatoes in every color and size.

Grow something

Peach blossoms. Did you know anything could be so beautiful?

Grow something

I had to thin the fruit (that means knock off about 2/3 of them – it’s best for the tree & fruit), all the while reminding myself, “They’re fruit, not children. They’re fruit, not children. They can’t feel.” A friend didn’t know peaches were fuzzy. He’d only had them canned. That right there is why I grow.

Grow something

And then we have my apples. Don’t tell the others, but the apples are my favorite.

Grow something

Apples make everything better. Yesterday, I was baking apples, and I just stood at the oven vent and breathed. Better than therapy.

And here’s my colleague Patty’s garden:

Grow something

In boxes, too! So much easier. She has a few volunteer tomato plants from last year’s crop. That’s really free food!

Grow something

Patty is growing zucchini. Brave soul. Anyone have a recipe for her? Here’s mine:

Grilled Zucchini

Slice zucchini lengthwise about 1/4” thick. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle fresh ground pepper and sea salt (or garlic salt). Grill over medium heat in a grill pan or directly on the grates til surface is slightly translucent. Flip and cook til the same doneness on side 2. Remove and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Super yum. I don’t think I’ll share.

Further reading

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Megan says:

I love this post. Plants changed my life. Last year, I was in a rut and kinda lost. It was causing my very happy and loving relationship problems and I was just depressed. Plus I was almost 40 and no passion or career I loved. Then I bought a succulent and started reading on them… Long story short that succulent was life changing. I now will be 40 in two months, am enrolled in college working on double major, I have a hundred or more succulents propagating in various stages and my long term goal is to open a succulent and plant nursery. I do houseplants too but I have way more succulents. Plants are therapeutic and make me happy and gave me a purpose I was looking for. And I not only use Dr bronners on me but on my plants too. Your post related to me so I just wanted to share my story and reiterate that nature can heal and help if you let it. Thanks

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Megan- And I love your comment. There is something about growing and caring for plants that nourishes both soul and spirit. Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly says:

Hi Lisa,
Even though I just read this post, instinctively took your advice to grow something because I started my first garden a few months ago. I have containers too but I have started out with — tomatoes! I found your blog while searching for non toxic ways to deal with aphids.

My next step with be buying a Vegepod to grow my organic salad greens and herbs. I will leaning toward buying two and use the second one for seed starting. I saw them on TV sometime ago, they are containers that are self watering and have covers that keep the pests out. The covers also allow you to grow in the extreme heat or cold, extending the growing season.

Thanks for the diy tips and encouragement.

Carolyn M says:

Okay, I’m inspired … I live under pine trees, on sand with deer that will eat everything (well, maybe not my begonias). What they don’t eat, the squirrels will and then there are the raccoons that “throw” my pots off the deck. Maybe cactus???? 🙂 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

Carolyn- Ha! Sounds like you have some greedy backyard “neighbors” in your neck of the woods! If not a cactus, perhaps a lovely houseplant – tucked safely indoors, of course!

Katie says:

This made me laugh! I’m working on my first real garden and I feel so protective of every little sprout. When the seed packet says “thin seedlings” I panic. I can’t imagine the horror of knocking down all those baby peaches. O.o

I’m thinking about using a container in the sink to rinse in and save a little water. Do you think if a little Dr. Bronner’s soap got in there and then got dumped in my garden it’d be okay? Or would that do something weird to the soil? I’m guessing it wouldn’t create an issue, but I thought I’d check first. Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Katie- I’m glad you can relate to the some of the “tough love” that comes with gardening! Yes, both our Castile soap and Sal Suds are biodegradable and won’t harm your plants.

Laurie True says:

This blog post was especially delightful, humorous and of course motivating. Loved all the photos!

garrie keyman says:

Charming post. Thanks for encouraging people to partner with nature’s endless miracles. Just planted sweet taters and kale yesterday. Spinach going in today. Also growing onions, basil, tomatoes (just one plant!), peppers, red lettuce, string beans and…lots of flowers! All fenced, since my goat wants so much to help me harvest everything I try to plant, ??

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Garrie- Wow! With all that goodness growing, I certainly can’t blame the goat for wanting a sample. Enjoy!

Patti says:

Amazing article. What a lovely reminder as to why we grow. I actually teared up a but while reading. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles. 🙂

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Patti- I’m glad this one resonated with you!

Louise says:

Nice post Lisa. Plantng sprouting potato pieces tomorrow. See what happens and who gets to eat, woodchuck, deer, skunk, rabbit…., if anything produces.

Lisa Bronner says:

Thanks, Louise! I’ve not been successful with potatoes in the past, but giving them another go ’round this year. Hoping your neighborhood critters save some for you… and my snails for me!

Karen Daniels says:

I could read your snarky blogs all day long. They always (literally) bring a smile and good ole chuckle. Thank you for this encouraging post. Oh, and yes, your bug spray works wonders! I’m so grateful for it! So is my orange tree!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Karen- Thanks for reading and engaging so frequently! Enjoy those oranges!

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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