Episode 033 of the Cultivate Your Life Podcast was released on April 22, 2020. Listen here!

You’re restless. I’m restless. You’re home. I’m home. We are all in this together. You know what else is really tricky lately is finding fresh produce at the grocery store. We don’t even really want to go into the grocery store. No one wants to go there, and so sometimes these meals are made of canned goods and maybe it’s just me. My friend Nicole, she said these wise words, and these are for all of us. She said, “The best time to start a garden was five years ago. Second best time is corona quarantine.” Do you need some fresh air? Are you feeling that? Let’s step out into the garden together.

You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them. The things that last longer than you, the things that run deeper and are more thrilling than skydiving, the things that make you come alive. Welcome to the Cultivate Your Life podcast where each week we talk about how to uncover what matters to you in the big picture and start acting like it today. Whether you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, or in need of some refreshing truth today, I’m Lara and you are in the right place. Let’s cultivate what matters together.

It is so good to be out here with you right now. The sun is shining here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in our little suburban garden out here by our driveway. And our tiny little sprouts are growing. They’re growing. I read these words the other day that rung through my soul. “What all gardeners know and the rest of you may discover is that if you have even the smallest space, a pot on a window ledge, a front step, a wee yard, there is no balm for the soul greater than planting seeds. We all know in theory that nature brings peace, but now more than ever, we should self prescribe a dose of it.” Those words are from a great article from Charlotte Mendelson. I think we could all use a dose of that, couldn’t you? this year out here in the garden, I’m growing a lot for food more than I ever have before.

We moved all the containers we have out onto the driveway. Every pot, every little raised bed thing we had stored away in the garage and we pulled them out from all various places in our yard and we moved them onto the driveway here, where we’ve got a lot of sun. Would you like a garden tour? Let’s do that. Let’s take a look at what’s growing in the garden right now. Here we go. We have, okay, this box right here, lots and lots of tomatoes for my tomato loving son. So many tomatoes, the snacking kind, the big kind, the stripey kind, the purple kind, all the kinds of tomatoes. We have squash and potatoes in one garden bed here. And then, okay, over here there’s nothing that you can see above the surface because we planted my personal favorite, shishito peppers. I’m determined, guys. I’m determined to have a huge crop of these things this year, but it’s still a little too cold here for shishito peppers, so we’re starting some additional shishito peppers seeds in our house. We’re getting garden crazy this year.

You guys remember what happened to my garden last year? Not so much. This year, we’re going all out. We have a Sarah’s pizza garden, okay, right over here. Sarah’s pizza garden is of course tomatoes and basil. And dotted around all of these pots and containers, we have these sunny, beautiful yellow marigolds. They serve a purpose. They keep the nematodes away. I know, what is that? I couldn’t even tell you. Just something that is not good for tomatoes. They keep those away. They keep pests away and they just look beautiful even when there’s nothing out here growing above the surface yet. All right, so there you have it. That’s a little tiny taste of what’s growing out here. We also have some sunflowers in these. Let’s see what else.

Oh, and Josh reminded me that they still count as food. He said, “Mom, you can eat sunflower seeds, right?” I was like, “Yeah, buddy. All right, we’re good to go.” We’ve planted all these things together in these raised boxes out here. Now over here in my normal garden area, and this is the spot where I have all of those raised garden beds that I’ve had for so many years out here. I have so many flowers. So many flowers. We’ve planted so many things in faith and we cannot wait for the harvest, but more than that, we’re so excited to celebrate the little by little by little right now. This, this is our modern day victory garden. Have you heard of a victory garden? Let me give you a little background.

In the First and Second World Wars, there was a lot of food rationing during those times and the government encouraged our country to help out by planting what they called a victory garden. Now the government would use the phrase, sow the seeds of victory to encourage Americans in these victory garden ventures. Throughout both of these World Wars, the victory garden campaign served as a boost of morale, it safeguarded against food shortages on the home front, and it also eased the burden on the commercial farmers who were working so hard to feed troops and civilians overseas. The victory garden also had another level though. It was a community effort and in that time a communal space. People shared what they grew and they worked together to make it grow and they bonded and looked out for each other.

I know, I have to think back and my mom and I have been talking so much recently about how we wish we could talk to my grandparents. We wish we could ask them, “What was it like? What was it like for your family and for you to plant those victory gardens back then?” I have so many photographs with my grandfather out with his tomatoes and holding up prize turnips and so many things, and I can only imagine how much richer that experience would have been when you’re really growing food for sustenance and to avoid famine. And how much of a community effort and a family effort that would have been.

Now let me introduce you to the new victory garden. You’ve probably seen a whole lot of people talking about gardening lately. Probably people you never expected would be talking about gardening. Now there’s a reason more than ever, the world loves and needs gardens right now. Maybe you’re feeling that right now too. Maybe you’re one of the many who has started your first garden or maybe you want to know how to get started. We love gardens right now for what I think is three reasons. Number one is peace. Number two is people. And number three is produce. Number one, studies show, so many studies show that gardening reduces anxiety. Yes, our world is feeling that right now and gardening is that antidote in so many ways. Studies show that gardening reduces anxiety, provides exercise. And I’ll tell you, I used to balk at people who would say that gardening was exercise until I became a gardener myself and guys I sweat. It is hard work out there. It’s more like mini farming than gardening. That’s what I like to call it. But the bottom line is gardening makes you happier.

Number two, people. You’ll connect with each other, both in your family and if you’re by yourself in this quarantine time, guess what? You’re going to be able to connect with gardeners virtually all over the world who are doing this right alongside you. So many for the first time.

And number three, produce. Whether it’s a pot of herbs or a bushel of tomatoes, you’ll taste the benefits. Our modern day victory gardens, they also provide tangible progress and satisfaction of accomplishment when everything feels totally uncertain, topsy turvy, I know I can come out here to my garden and say, “Oh, so good to see these seeds sprout.” I know I sound like a crazy garden lady, but trust me, give it a try and you’ll feel the same thing. And if you have kids at home with you, they’re going to love this. Farmers, I have so many farmer friends right around us, right around these neighborhoods here and you know what they do? They plant their seeds in faith. They don’t know what the weather’s going to do. They don’t know how many tomatoes are going to grow on a plant or if the plant’s going to grow at all. They actually don’t even know what the weather’s going to be like or what storms may come or not come. They, like us, plant good things in faith, not knowing what the exact outcomes will be.

Isn’t that so much like us right now? We feel like all of our plans have been dashed to pieces and there’s so little that we can plan longterm right now. It is an exercise in faith to plant something good in your life and in your yard right now. But do you know why farmers do it and why we do it as gardeners? It’s just like Charlotte said, there is no greater balm for the soul than planting seeds because you get to believe in something you can’t yet see and that, that gives you hope. As we together as a family over the last few weeks have planted these seeds out here, we were declaring victory over this virus.

We cannot control the outcome of this. We cannot predict what’s going to happen or if we will get sick or not, but we are declaring victory over the change that this has inflicted upon all of our lives. We’re declaring victory over the fear and the challenges. And we’re claiming victory as we plant good seeds in each other’s hearts. Whether it’s kind words or faith spoken over our children, or I’m sorrys and the times when we feel like we’re so cooped up and everyone’s having a moment. Or for me, I’ve been planting seeds of faith in our children by writing out memories from this time and taking photographs and printing them out on my little home printer here and putting them in my legacy journal for them. I want them to remember the good things that were sown here.

What are you declaring victory over? One way to do this in planting a victory garden is to plant legacy. I look out here in my front yard. Let’s walk out here. We’re going to walk out here towards the front. In the front, my mother, when we brought Sarah home for the first time, my mom planted so many beautiful purple irises and they’re all blooming right now. They’re so beautiful. When my grandmother Celeste passed away, my mom went to her home in California and brought back something very special. She number one brought back jonquil bulbs, which are these beautiful bright yellow daffodils that just smell like a slice of heaven. And I have these planted here in the yard. She also brought back for me, my grandmother’s iris, which is also blooming right now. This, this, these are just the smallest examples of planting legacy. It’s planting story and narrative and history and memories.

Maybe for you, I have a friend that actually texted me a few weeks ago and she said, “Laura, I just want to plant something that’s going to remind us of resilience during this time. I want to plant something strong and sturdy. What should I do?” And I said, “Well I think a tree would be good.” And she lives in a mountain area, so she’s got lots of trees already. But just imagine, just imagine even a generation from now being underneath the wings of that tree and being underneath those boughs and being able to tell the story of why you planted it in the first place. That is planting legacy. Just like during wartime in this season, many of us are thinking about that more, more than usual. We are numbering our days and we want to use our days well so that they add up to something even right now.

That legacy may be something tangible like planting literally something out in your yard to remind you of this time or it’s something intangible. Perhaps right now you are growing new habits, a legacy of loving the outdoors more or of patience in this time or a love of beauty in even cutting little weeds. Oh my gracious, my daughter Grace, she, when we go on walks in our neighborhood, she always finds the most beautiful little blooming weeds and she brings them back and our house is literally filled with them sometimes, but those things, those are the things I remember that she will remember about this time.

In planting a garden, in planting a legacy. Faith is required. We don’t know what our legacy will add up to. We can’t control how others will see us or value our actions and decisions. But like our farmer friends, we can plant seeds in faith little by little. We can cultivate the soil of hope for the best, taking a risk for the good ahead. We can extend kindness and make wise decisions, use our time as wisely as we can and have a whole lot of grace. This is the ultimate victory, is choosing hope and faith over despair. And now I know all these things, they sound probably real big but like all good things, legacies and gardens, they all just start with one small step and you can start right now.

I am so excited to share with you a gift from my garden to yours. You can go to gardeningwithlara.com and download a free gardening basics and gardening planning workbook. So many of you, thousands of you have already downloaded this and you are growing good things right where you are. Here’s the trick though, no green thumb required. You can start a garden and here’s another reason why to do it right now. Have you heard, pun intended, have you heard that human induced seismic noise has fallen by over 30% lately? And that’s all because of the lack of traffic and cars and commerce slowing down. The vibrations in the earth have fallen by 30% seismologists say. And one scientist said that that’s something that usually only happens on Christmas Day when people are inside their houses across the world in a lot of places. Something’s happening.

Another beautiful, beautiful set of words from Charlotte Mendelson, she said, “Outside as a result of the shutdown, a miracle is occurring. Bird song everywhere.” I know. Just listen to that. I love it. These things, they were actually there all along, but now we’re being afforded the opportunity to hear them more. Step outside if you can, wherever you are, and listen in. Plant that garden, you might even be able to hear the sound of a seed drop. You never know. Although sometimes in my garden my kids are a little loud. But dig in and remember, I have a way for you to do this step by step, no experience required and whether you have a small pot up on a windowsill in your apartment and you’re all cooped up there or you have a yard that’s just kind of sitting there waiting for something to happen, dig in. My gift to you from my garden to yours, you can download that now at gardeningwithlara.com.

And okay, I would really, really, really, really, really love it if you would, this is just for my pure enjoyment, can you show me your gardens? Will you please tag me in your garden photos on Instagram just so I can see them. I’m on Instagram @LaraCasey. Please, just let me see your gardens. I would love to see what you’re growing in your victory garden this year. Friends, you can be a gardener. You can declare victory over these crushing and horrible things that are happening right now, even in the tiniest of ways. And in that, you are declaring hope ahead for everyone around you.

This is so good to be out here with you among the birds and the bees and the butterflies that are starting to swarm in here. Until our next garden chat here together, get outside, smell the roses and get your hands dirty.