Grow Something: mini-mission

Gardening is an art, and not everyone is good at it. I am one of those people.

While I’ve managed to keep a few potted plants alive, most of the things I plant in the ground do not do well.

Even though I understand my limitations, every year pre-spring, I start to think about what I can grow. Actually, I start to think about what we can grow. Then my husband starts to think about all the weeding he’ll be doing.

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, I was enamored with the idea of living off the land. And then I remembered that I would probably starve if left to my own devices and backyard gardening adventures.

This mini-mission doesn’t require any gardening knowledge. You don’t need a green thumb or even a shovel. Just grow something that you can eat. Even if it’s just one thing. Planting a seed or a small plant and raising it for food will do more than feed your belly.

Grow something to feed…

  • Your brain. You will have to do a little research before growing something. What grows best in your climate? Should you plant it in a container or in the ground? How will you take care of it?
  • Your heart. Something magical happens when you plant, nurture and raise your own food. You feel genuine love and gratitude for your food. I know that sounds a little woo woo, but it really happens. When you focus on the essentials that your plant needs to grow: water, sunshine, and a little time and space, it’s natural to reflect on the essentials you need for happiness. Love and happiness does not require much to grow.
  • Your soul. A sense of wonder feeds your soul and seeing a plant grow from seed or sprout to something you can eat is an amazing process. I remember many summer days last year, looking forward to checking on a tomato plant, counting the flowers and being in awe that something so simple could be so miraculous.
  • Your friends. Sharing your labor of love with friends of family adds so much to a meal. It’s a connection with nature that is hard to explain, but easy to appreciate.

After you grow something, compare it to the grocery store version. If you grow tomatoes, buy a similar variety and notice the difference in how they look, feel, smell and taste. You will never buy produce the same way again.

If growing something is not for you, consider buying a farm share or visiting your local farmer’s market.

While you may already have a big garden, if you don’t, start small. Choose one vegetable that you like to eat and grow that. If you are feeling adventurous, give this mini-mission a theme and grow everything you need for a specific recipe. Grow tomatoes, hot peppers and cilantro for a salsa garden. Try tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil and oregano for a simple marinara. You could even try growing mint and limes for a refreshing mojito!

Yesterday, my husband and I planted 3 small tomato plants, cilantro, basil, and rosemary. We have a good sized garden space, and in the past have tried to grow squash, carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, spicy peppers, lettuce and a few other things. Now we focus on growing less and enjoying more.

Be creative, have fun and revel in the miracle of growing something. What’s in your garden?

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.


  1. says

    Thank you so much for the link love. I truly appreciate it. And you are right! While growing has come to mean planting seeds and gardening and tomato bushes, it is also essential that we grow our emotional gardens too. I find great comfort in the parables of planting seed found in the Bible. Life is so much more than just the product. The process is equally important and for my wife, Crystal, and I, we value our time in the garden together. Even if all our crops failed the time we spend side-by-side, planting, weeding, harvesting, etc. is essential to our happy life.

    If anyone wants to keep up with us and our adventures they can also find us on Facebook at:

    • says

      Dear Another Kind of Drew,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. When I think of gardening… or when I garden and think… I can’t help but journey into the parallels of our lives and the gardens that we create for ourselves in the way of friends and family (other flowers & plants), what we read & watch (food & water for growth), where we decide to lay our roots. And of course there is a quieter bubble around me & my wingman when we are hunched over side by side, wrist deep in the dirt. Your a kindred spirit. Happy Harvesting… at home.. and in the garden.

  2. says

    What a great mini mission Courtney! It’s true, growing just one thing to eat will change your relationship with food and with the Earth. It’s easy to take food for granted and to forget just how much goes into growing the nourishment our bodies depend on.

    Do let me know if questions or problems arise as you work with your tomatoes and herbs. I know you already read my blog and I’m always happy to answer reader questions.

  3. says

    My favorite plants are those that return…for edible plants, it’s the violets in the yard, the mint by my door (though it is invasive! I had to plead for it…but now Neal loves it when I cut up watermelon and add mint from our yard!), and the sage that keeps coming back. I have several lavender plants that bring me great joy, too. As I’m working in the garden, I brush against the lavender, and Wow! aromatherapy!

    I’m going to plant lots of tomatoes, but I’m going to cut back on most other things that I haven’t had luck with…I’ll plant lettuces throughout the season, maybe another round of radish in the fall, since they do well. Gardening is a delight–reminds me of working outside with my dad when I was a kid, and like Drew said, even if nothing succeeds, it is great time to be outside with Neal!

  4. says

    I love this post.

    When I treat new patients, I teach them how health is a process. It starts with a thought seed of “health” that you plant in your mind. Then you start cultivating that seed by taking small actions, by learning a little at a time, and by doing a little bit each day. You don’t expect immediate results, you expect that if you continue to water your seed, it will grow into a flower and health and happiness will result. In other words, it will pay off if you can respect the process.

    I’ve thought about buying a seed in a small pot for each new patient as a metaphor.

    Any thoughts as to which flower would be best as a metaphor for health?

    Something that people can water a little each day that flowers slowly over time, and perhaps, continues to grow into more flowers, just like health does?

    • Courtney Carver says

      I love the idea of a plant or seed as a gift for patients. I don’t know what makes sense in terms of a health metaphor, but would turn the focus more to “the easiest flower to grow from a seed ever!” so your patients can see the results.

      The symbolic nature will be there regardless of the type of flower.

      Any suggestions out there on a flower that is easy to grow?

  5. says

    I told myself (and Patrick told himself) this was the year we’d plant a garden. On the property there are tomatoes, basil, grapefruit, avocados, mulberries, aloe and until recently limes. Wonderful! The only problem is, we’re not growing them. We share a home with Patrick’s mother and she has the green thumb. I’ve tried growing a little garden many times and my thumb hasn’t been green enough for a lot of success. Soon. Soon. Soon. I tell myself. Soon. If I tell myself enough, then it will be true!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Tanja, maybe you need to start with a little pot of basil and gain confidence in your growing skills. In the meantime, be really nice to Patrick’s mum and enjoy those Avocados!

      Hope you are well!

      • says

        Hey Courtney,

        The avocado tree was just planted to replace the lime tree which had finished it’s life. I’ll have to wait a few years to enjoy some homegrown ones!

        I did try growing when I lived in Arkansas. Everything was eaten by deer and grasshoppers (except for the green onions). I can grow some awesome green onions! Maybe I should start with those. :)

  6. rago says

    I love your idea of growing vegetables for a menu or for a theme. I only have enough space to grow a few things in pots and I’ve always struggled to work out the best things to try. Thanks to your post you have given me some great ideas on how to theme up my garden. Love the salsa garden idea!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Rago, Let me know if you decide to plant a salsa garden. I’d love to hear how it turns out.

  7. says

    My minimalist lifestyle includes living in a downtown condo, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for gardening. It’s something that my wife and I have always missed, and today we’ve decided to do something about it. We’re looking for a planter that we can grow in out on our balcony and I’m so excited about it.

    I love your thoughts on growing something to feed your brain, heart, soul and friends. It really is so much more than growing something for food and I appreciate your reminder to acknowledge that.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Jason, I think the two of you have been busy growing something else for the past year! 😉

      There are great books about apartment gardening. I’ve always grown herbs like basil and rosemary regardless of space because they are usually easy to take care of, smell great and fresh organic herbs at the market are usually expensive so it’s easy to save a little money too.

      • says

        Courtney, do you start them from seed or buy pre-grown ones? The basil plants we buy never seem to last more than a month or so before they start to look a little unhappy. Then we get greedy plucking and buy a new one.

    • says

      Oh Jason! I’m so glad that you came to the realization that you can have it all… and from right where you are! I too live in a one bedroom… well to make it even more unimaginable… rented apartment! But what started out as a “seed” in my heart… has bloomed into a wonderful full garden… we broke a few rules to make it happen but in the end… who’s going to make us shut down a GARDEN?!?!
      Best of luck with yours.
      P.S be sure to check if the flowers/plants/fruit/veggies… prefer full/partial sun or shade as the sun is different for apartment dwellers than houses. And also: there are planters that straddle the railing if you have a balcony, that combined with some hanging plants will make a beautiful natural retreat for yourself and a beautiful gift for your neighbours!

  8. says

    I strongly agree.

    I discovered the ‘joy of growing food’ about five years ago, and as well as all the dietary and environmental benefits, it’s tremendously relaxing and fulfulling.

    The slow pace involved, the overall simplicity, the sense of closeness with nature, the weather and the seasons, as well as the simple act of being outside are all good medicine for our modern lifestyles.


  9. says

    I started a small CSA last year to share the love of growing and eating fresh produce with my community. It has been great! I love the time spent watching the plants grow. If I am having a bad day all it takes is a little time working in the garden to get me back on even keel.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Trudy, That is great! I love that you turned your passion into a community project.

  10. says

    Thank you so much for your writing. It is a “seed” for thought & I don’t go a day without being nourished by your words. I was so exited to see that you blogged about gardening today! I’m not an enthusiast by any means. Rather, I go to the nursery… pick up whats pretty… & stick it in the ground. But my time in the garden is restful, meditative and nourishing. Its a direct line to wisdom & its where I reconnect with my husband… & God
    Thanks Courtney

  11. says

    I am growing tomatoes, basil, parsley, spinach and lettuce. Soon we’ll be planting onions. I highly recommend Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew–gardening with a minimum of fuss and weeding!

  12. says

    Grow less and enjoy more sounds great to me. This year I’m trying 2 herbs, dill was growing great until I overwatered it. But the peppermint is still growing strong inside. I do great with houseplants and shade flowers, but not so great with things I can eat!

    Doesn’t everyone love getting dirty if it’s to create, plant, and grow? My son had a blast collecting the worms I ran into this spring. He called himself the “worm expert”, as he rearranged the worms into a group “so they could be with their friends.” :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      I don’t get as excited about the worms as your son, so love that he is willing to take the “worm expert” title!

  13. Heidi says

    I do love the little red worms- they are the ones who do the most work in getting good soil to grow plants in.
    What makes me emotioionaly itchy are all the other living beings that want to get their share of what I try to cultivate….
    And yes- it is so exciting to eat what grows in my own garden