If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I decided to “do it scared” and jumped into gardening for the first time ever. This was a big deal for me as I have literally never kept even a houseplant alive in my 30+ years (call my mom, she will confirm). With everything that has been going on in the world over the past few years, God put it on my heart to recognize how little I actually knew about being self-sustaining.
Since early college I have been very interested in health, but I was very into “clean and green” products that other people had to grow and produce and maintain (I talked more about this transition here). It just was becoming more and more apparent to me that if sh*t hit the fan in this world, I would have no way of feeding my family without a grocery store or Thrive Market.
Gardening + Health Journeys are Similar
This will by no means be a blog on how to start a garden, but rather what I have learned in my 4+ months thus far of being a novice gardener. Surprisingly it has taught me more about health and how similar of a journey it can be and I wanted to share it with you as both an encouragement on either your health or gardening journey.
So many of the things we hear are “good” for us- sunlight, grounding (walking barefoot), getting our hands in dirt to support the gut microbiome, walking/exercising is all encompassed in gardening. There were many days, especially early on with setting up the beds, shoveling, planting, etc. pushed me way over my daily activity goals and I was actually sore and didn’t need another workout. What’s even better is it feels like a three-for-one- you can get your daily sun exposure (✔), get your exercise (✔) and get in some grounding/dirt all at the same time (✔). Everyone is busy this day and age, so this is an awesome way to habit stack and save time while getting “more” done.
Gardening Takes Time + Sacrifice
I think the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is how the term “fruits of your labor” applies and just HOW MUCH WORK it takes to garden (especially organically). From figuring out soil quality, watering throughout the week, diagnosing leaf issues, etc. it can really be time-consuming without a lot of benefits up front.
How similar is it to starting to make health changes? It takes a lot of sacrifice to start making more meals at home, shopping for healthier items, prioritizing self-care, making time for exercise and up front you really don’t have much to show for it.
Everything Seems the Same Until One Day…Fruit! (or Veggie!)
After everything gets planted, the weeding and watering can feel like Groundhog Day for a few weeks/months and you even worry if anything is ever going to sprout/grow/produce. This was a big concern for me for my watermelon plants, as they just didn’t seem to be growing at ALL for literally weeks, especially compared to the other plants. But then one day, it seems out of the blue, all these little watermelons were suddenly there!
Again, this is so pertinent to health changes- we get into our groove with food, fitness, rest, and self-care but it can feel like we’re just doing the same things over and over again to no avail. But suddenly, one day our pants feel a lot looser or the workout feels easier or we have the clearest skin we’ve had in a long time. Despite it feeling like nothing is happening, the consistency of our efforts is what ultimately leads to watermelons growing (aka health progress).
Growing Plants is an External Example of Internal Changes
I think the coolest part of gardening has been seeing the difference in plants between weeks or even days, now especially as the fruits are growing. It is truly amazing to see with just water and sun how these changes present into something so physical and eventually something so nourishing to the body.
This is where so many of us struggle- we desperately want to see EXTERNAL changes but forget to point our focus to the things we need to focus on INTERNALLY. Just like the little seeds that turn into watermelon, internally a lot had to happen in the soil and the plant to produce the external change. Our bodies are no different- if we are only focusing on trying to see progress externally, we may give up because the real change is happening where we can’t “see” it all the time.
Symptoms May Appear
Specific to my garden this year, I had fungus on some of my tomato leaves, moths eating my broccoli + brussels sprout leaves and Japanese beetles going after my marigolds. I had a choice to make- was I going to treat the leaf or treat the root cause of the “disease” showing up?
Here lies where most of us get our health wrong- we seek to treat the symptom and not the cause. It’s easier to put acne cream on our face versus figuring out why we have acne in the first place. It’s also easy to try and take a weight loss supplement or do a crash diet/cleanse instead of looking deeper into why our weight is a struggle. Determining the root cause takes more time, but it will save you money, time + frustration in the long run if you get to the reason and stop chasing quick fixes.
In the End…It’s All Trial + Error
I think this is the biggest takeaway- just like life, gardening is ALL trial and error. What works great for one person on YouTube fails terribly in your own soil. Instead of getting upset or giving up or calling yourself a failed gardener, you rebound, reassess, and try something new. I already have a list of notes and changes I want to make next year to improve the garden and things I will do differently.
This is usually why we don’t succeed in changing their health. We run into roadblocks, get busy, have a “cheat” day and decide we’ll never change, never feel better and just give up. Instead, we should be problem solving why we strayed or creating a new plan to follow. It’s okay to pivot, reboot and change directions…especially when each season of life presents different challenges and opportunities.
If you thought this was going to be an article about gardening and were sorely disappointed, here are some tools and resources that did help me in getting started: