I’m a passionate gardener. My dad imparted this love of growing things when I was a small child, and today I’m probably at risk for trespassing when I can’t resist pulling weeds for a store or restaurant I’m passing.

Scientists have learned that gardening exposes us to a helpful bacteria in the soil which stimulates the brain section responsible for producing serotonin. It can actually work as an antidepressant! It can also help with cognitive function, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

But for me, it’s more than that. It’s actually a sacred experience. Whenever I’m planting, watering, tending, I sense a closeness to our Father in Heaven. This is His soil, these are His seeds, and this is His work. I try to make my yard a testament to my love for Him, for the variety He has given us, and for the beauty He has created.

I am constantly coming across lovely little gifts in the world—a particular bird, flower, or sunset that was seemingly created just to delight the senses and bring joy to mankind. This world is abundant with such treasures.

Elder Hugh B. Brown once said, “The beauty and symmetry of God’s handiwork inspire reverence.” Yes, reverence is what I feel when I’m gardening.

We all know we’re supposed to be stewards of this earth. This means we’re caretakers and guardians, not owners. Our temple endowment ceremony spends a surprising amount of time on the subject of plants, animals, and our duty to protect and keep them.

Joseph F. Smith said, “Love of nature is akin to the love of God; the two are inseparable,” and “Every creature had a spiritual existence.”

So how can we be better stewards? Here are twelve ideas (maybe use these in a Family Home Evening lesson):

  1. Grow things. Even if you only have a windowsill, make the connection with God and nature by tending and nurturing a plant. If you have more space, design a garden and plant what you can. Learn which plants need full sun, and which need some shade. You’ll probably have both in different areas of your property. If you grow more vegetables or flowers than you can use, share them! 
  2. Plant native pollinators, if you can. We’re all aware of the shortage of bees, and you can make a difference if you plant flowers they like to visit. You might even post a “bee hotel” to attract bees which don’t make hives or honey, and which just pollinate. Easy to check those out online.
  3. Dispose of medicine and toxic substances properly. Don’t dump paint, chemicals, or cleaning products down the drain, where they can make their way to our waterways.  Dead batteries are also not supposed to go to landfills – they need to be recycled at local libraries and electronic stores.
  4. Repurpose. Don’t throw away glass bottles—use them to store cereal, grains, beans, all kinds of pantry items. Be thoughtful about containers, and think of other uses for items you are currently throwing away.
  5. Eat healthier. This means you’ll buy fewer packaged items that can turn up in our oceans, choking birds and aquatic animals. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store rather than the interior where highly processed and packaged choices are, and buy local produce whenever possible.
  6. Plant a tree. Think carefully about the amount of shade you want, and whether the root system could be invasive, harming your plumbing. Research how big it grows, so you can prune it attractively instead of topping it. I honestly don’t know how many trees I’ve planted, but it’s wonderful to watch them grow and thrive, providing food and oxygen. Check online for local organizations that offer free trees in your area.
  7. Conserve water. Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, and take shorter showers. Don’t overly rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher.
  8. Wash laundry only when you have a full load. Then, use cold or warm water. If every home in the U.S. switched from a hot to a warm cycle, it could save the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil per day.
  9. Turn off lights and electrical appliances when not in use. Don’t let the TV run all day if no one’s watching it. Be aware of which appliances (like most TVs) still drain energy when they remain plugged in.
  10. Consider drinking filtered water in a reusable glass bottle, instead of bottled water in a plastic container. We’ve all seen videos of the thousands of plastic bottles scooped up in the ocean, many far from their place of origin.
  11. Look into composting. This is easy to investigate online, and can be done in a tiny apartment or in a whole neighborhood.
  12. Research pesticides and try to use natural methods of controlling pests. Harmful chemicals in our soil have been linked to many diseases, and pose a long-term threat to nature, also.

Many of these suggestions will save money as well, and reduce your utility bills.

President Russell M. Nelson has said, “We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations.” 

Just as you feel peace in your heart when you hit upon a solution you’ve been praying about, you’ll feel this way about living deliberately and carefully, tending this beautiful earth God has created. You’ll come home to a welcoming, beautiful front yard and you’ll enjoy the kinship you feel with Him, knowing you really are a steward of the earth.

Hilton’s Latter-day Saint novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle.  All her books and hundreds of YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.