Garden like a Mother with Danielle Smith
Danielle Smith, owner of Garden Like a Mother and a professional gardening mentor, shares the health benefits of gardening and advice on how to get outside, get in the dirt, and grow your own food starting today.
Our conversation covers:
- Public health models of health that emphasizes interconnection
- What a professional garden mentor does
- How Danielle’s gardening and mothering philosophy intersect
- Social and emotional gardening benefits
- How gardening helped Danielle with a challenging postpartum experience
- Gardening as self care
- The progression of shoots, roots, and fruits
- How and why to get started gardening now
Danielle Smith is a professional garden mentor and founder of Garden Like a Mother. She helps moms grow fresh food at home with ease and confidence so they can lead their families in living healthier, happier, and more intentional lives. She believes that gardening is much more than a hobby– it’s holistic lifestyle that creates better lives for gardeners and sends out positive ripple effects across communities and our planet. She is a self-taught gardener and holds a master’s degree in Public Health, with an emphasis on food systems and chronic disease prevention.
Connect with Danielle in her Facebook group, where she shares a lot of gardening resources and offers a live weekly show with tips and trainings on how to garden successfully as a mom!
Follow Danielle on Instagram and Clubhouse @daniellesmith
Root into Mother Nature with a mindful outdoor experience
Schedule a free call with Dr. Allie Davis for mothering support
Learn more about rewild mothering support groups
Drafted by AI. Please excuse typos.
Hi there and welcome to Episode 113 of rewild mothering garden like a mother. Today I’m talking with Daniel Smith. She’s a professional garden mentor and founder of garden like a mother. She helps moms grow fresh food at home with ease and confidence so they can lead their families and living healthier, happier lives and more intentional lives. She believes gardening is much more than just a hobby. It’s a holistic lifestyle that creates better lives for gardeners and sends out positive ripple effects across communities in our planet. She’s a self taught gardener and holds a master’s degree in Public Health with an emphasis on food systems and chronic disease prevention. In our conversation today, we explore the health benefits of gardening and even some of the psychosocial benefits of getting out there and getting in the dirt and growing your own food.
The future relies on the wellness of mothers. Welcome to rewired mothering, a podcast about holistic maternal wellness for soulful mothers to help us grow into the mothers we envisioned for ourselves, our families, and our planet. Each week, in just about 20 minutes, were weaving together modern research and ancient wisdom, exploring paths and practices that help us reclaim mothering as wild initiation with Mother Nature’s guide. I’m your host, Dr. Allie Davis, a maternal mental health counselor and a mother walking this path with you. Thank you for being here. Let’s dig in.
Danielle, thank you for being here and talking with us a little bit about your work with garden like a mother, which is a fabulous inquiry about health and sustainability across our our lives, our families and our communities. So I wanted to ask you a little bit about your background, how you got into gardening and how you became a gardening coach. Yeah, absolutely. And thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here to talk about gardening today. One of my favorite things.
So yeah, so I’m actually a self taught gardener, I have always kind of had an interest in health and nature. But I really haven’t didn’t start gardening until about five years ago or so. And at this point, you know, I’m really in love with the art and the science of gardening. Both the mechanics of it as a hobby has something to do for fun, but also how it can be used as a mechanism to, you know, help us live healthier, and happier and more intentional lives. And I really believe that, you know, in our
in seeking out progress as a society, we’ve unfortunately become so busy and so disconnected with nature, and it is hurting us in some ways. And, you know, living our lives on autopilot and chasing these dreams that aren’t really necessarily in line with what we believe in, or what we value is detrimental to both our personal lives, but also the health of our planet and the health of our society. And personally, I really want to live a really great life and don’t not miss out on living the life while I have it. And my my academic background is in public health, actually, I have a master’s degree in Public Health. And I completed that with an emphasis on food systems and chronic disease prevention, and actually graduated with my master’s degree before I started gardening. So you know, I had an interest in food systems and an interest in health and nutrition, but hadn’t quite awoken the spirit of gardening within myself. But one of the main tenants of public health as a field is systems thinking and understanding that everything is connected, and you have to your health or disease system isn’t in and of itself, it’s connected to other things. And you have to take a holistic approach to improving both your individual health and health on a population or global level. So that’s kind of, you know, the lens through which I see problems in general from an academic standpoint, and that’s carried into my, you know, my, my gardening philosophy as well. I love that last week, I shared a bit about my theoretical orientation as a nature therapist. And one of the things we talk about is our personal wellness is also planetary.
But your work also expands that responsibility to the more than human world. So tell me a little bit more about your work with garden like a mother. Yeah, so I am a professional garden mentor. And I specialize in working with moms who want to garden at home and help them learn how to grow gardens that are both beautiful and productive by working with them on a consistent basis throughout the growing season. So I provide education, along with resources and support and accountability as they’re actually growing their gardens.
Because I’m working with moms who are already busy and have 1000 things going on, I really strive to make gardening as simple and as low maintenance and successful as possible. So that busy moms can have these gardens that they’re dreaming about that they want without adding more stress or hassle to their plate and, you know, get all the good things out of it that they envisioned in the first place instead of having it be at another stress point in their lives.
Yeah, and how did your experiences and your mothering journey kind of shaped the work that you’re doing now with other mothers?
Yeah. Um, I mean, I think it’s interesting. I think when most people ask me this question, they envision that I grew up in a house that was growing vegetables year round, and that it was something that I grew up with. And I think that’s, you know, a lot of people who end up going into gardening or farming have that experience. But that actually was that my childhood, I can remember when I was a young girl, asking my mom to start a garden, and she was a good sport about it. And we attempted it, but didn’t go very well. So it was kind of a short lived thing. But I think, you know, even though we didn’t have a garden, one thing that my mom didn’t instill in me is that, you know, you should be really dreaming big about the future and being okay with whatever your desires might be, and be okay with getting messy, both from like an emotional standpoint, but also physically, like out in the dirt and exploring out in nature. And I think that philosophy has allowed me to, you know, have the confidence to start my business and also impacts my philosophy with parenting my son, and encouraging that same attitude and my clients.
Yeah, so tell me a little bit more what, what that looks like, you know, when you’re supporting someone, and getting messy, and maybe some of the emotional social issues that come up around gardening.
Yeah, I think, you know, oftentimes, clients when they start working with me, have been interested in gardening, but oftentimes will get overwhelmed or be afraid to start because they’re afraid of making a mistake. And, and frankly, that was my own story. You know, I started, I actually started gardening, the same year that I was pregnant. So actually start gardening the same month that I found out, I was pregnant. So something in my mind about, you know, growing new life and plants came together. And he was definitely like this really fun period of time, where you were learning new things about yourself and having a lot of expectations for the future, but also kind of a scary time of new possibilities, but also trepidation, and some fears about the future. So I look back on that summer very fondly.
And then when actually, when I had my son, I actually really struggled with being a mom, for the first couple years, I looking back, I think I had probably some form of postpartum depression. And I really struggled to bond with my son, and gardening and exploring nature has truly been the conduit and the way for us to bond. He is, uh, he’s four years old. And he’s very intelligent, and he loves to build things, you know, like Legos and,
and, you know, in doing like sports and physical activity, things which aren’t necessarily my loves, but he also loves to explore out in nature. So that’s been our kind of our special thing to do together. And while the infant years are really hard for me, I don’t do well with sleep deprivation and pretty independent person. And so having the need to be so much of my energy expended towards my child and their needs was an adjustment that I found difficult for that first year. But, you know, really, you know, as my son gets older, and really enjoying the experience of seeing him step into being a person and helping him learn things, explore and really help them be okay with, again, getting dirty, and making mistakes and asking questions and getting curious. And I think that’s one of the amazing things that nature provides to both kids and adults is that ability to find new things, learning things, and also be okay with things not being perfect, because I think that’s something that a lot of us struggle with is, you know, the control factor, and the need to make sure that things are always perfect, and nature has a way of boarding that and you have to kind of come to terms with the messiness and in the reality and giving up control.
You know, one in five or even more women struggle with things like depression than the first year year and a half of becoming a mother and we know that we know there’s some specific reasons that gardening helps with depression, like there’s, there’s things in the soil that are actually anti depressants, and you’re also talking about like we have stories that maybe are not so
Part of of these change cycles, like becoming a mother and gardening can kind of teach us that, that we have to surrender to what is instead of trying to control it. So I wanted to know, if you could share a little bit more and dig into how this kind of helped you heal during that period.
Yeah, I think, you know, not only was it a way for me to kind of find common ground with my son as he got older, and you know, have a really intentional way to, to bond with him that was interesting to both of us, and kind of special to both of us. You know, it’s also this lovely way for you to carve out time for yourself that is consistent. And,
you know, so many, you know, self care is such a buzzword now, right, like getting your self care. And I, you know, I don’t necessarily love the fact that self care has become a stereotype of, you know, bubble baths, and a glass of wine at the end of the day, or a spa trip, you know, you know, those are all great things that you can do for self care, but I think self care is so much more grounded and, and needs to be an everyday occurrence, and even how these small, small periods of time that you just really tap into what you really need in that moment. And that can be self care. So you know, self care can be, you know, as simple as closing and locking the door when you’re working on something versus leaving the door open so that your kid can come in and interrupt you know, self care can be
just deciding to eat a piece of fruit when you’re hungry instead of some candy. And so it can be these really small choices that add up over time and just deciding to you know, treat yourself better, and really be more in touch with your needs. And actually making sure you get what you need. Versus these huge, you know, big changes that we all I think struggle with sometimes when you’re busy and you have 1000 other things on your plate between being a mom and maybe having a job outside the home, as nails, supporting parents, things like that. Yeah, I also think,
you know, nature therapy really challenges these myths of individualism that we have in our culture that make ideas of self care seem like a burden, like I have to go separate and take care of myself. And it seems like gardening really ties in to that connection with our living system and caring for it and being cared and return. I wanted to know like, what does it look like when people who maybe haven’t gardened before? Or who have really, it’s been a site of struggle, maybe like it didn’t turn out like they wanted start to work with you? And what are the shifts that they experience?
Yeah, so you know, as as with most things, I take a very holistic approach to mentoring my clients. So
historically, we have expected people to learn gardening through very free through free or very low cost supports, like, you know, free advice from neighbors or family members, or YouTube videos or books. And that really is a disservice to new gardeners who are wanting to learn because we’re expecting them to learn on their own and rely on this piecemeal advice that’s often either incomplete or misinformed in some way. And so what does end up happening often with that is people try and either end up wasting a lot of time or money, doing the wrong things or doing the things that
aren’t going to lead to the results that they want. And then they either give up completely, and decide that they don’t want to garden or don’t have enough time, or just have a black thumb. Or they have a kind of a terrible experience that just makes their life really stressful until they can kind of break through to the successful period of time. So what I’m what I’ve created with my coaching program, as a holistic approach is to provide this education and support throughout the entire year to really be a trusted guide and mentor over a long period of time, on everything from like the basics of horticulture to how to plan and design their gardens to how to maintain and how to harvest and then actually use the food that you grow. And make sure that it works around your schedule. It also like ingraining in teachings on how you can use gardening as self care, like you said, because it is something that you need to go out every day, you know, just to take a quick walk to your garden to assess what’s going on. And while you’re out there, you have to be present. You have to be paying attention to the little details and you have to be mindful of what’s going on and so I think there are lots of little mini life lessons that are good reminders for adults and great ways to teach your kids about things like gratitude for you know, maybe maybe you have a tomato plant. You know, I always tell people it’s easy to buy like cherry tomatoes at the store and let them go bad because a they don’t taste as good. And so I’m growing tomatoes and we’ve gotten us used to buying from stores we don’t appreciate our food the same way as if you have taken the time and the investment and the care to grow your tomatoes at home like every single one of those tomatoes is going to get eaten because
You can appreciate how much time and effort went into it, you can appreciate just the the wonder of nature more and the tastes better. So, ultimately, you know, what I what I want to teach through gardening is that know gardening isn’t just a hobby, something you’re doing, but it’s actually going to nurture you, and help you be healthier and more mindful every single day, and help you teach your kids a more authentic and intentional lifestyle as well.
What are your tips when someone just wants to get started? You know, if, if this is something that appeals to them, and maybe they don’t have a big outdoor space? Or what are some of the ways you work with people to problem solve when they’re just beginning? Yeah, so typically, for new gardeners, if they’re looking to start small, which I always recommend starting small, I think it’s one of the big mistakes that gardeners take is wanting to grow too big of a garden the first year, as I talked to my clients, you know, every plant has its own unique needs, and its own unique preferences just like children do. So, you know, imagine when your kid came home, for the first time, you had to figure out, you know, what his cries for help meant, and you had to get to know what you know he liked to do and what he liked to eat, and all these things, it takes time to get to know your plant. And imagine bringing, you know, 20 kids home at the same time in the hospital, and having to figure out what each of them needs, right. So it’s the same with gardening is to start small, intentionally so that you can get to know the plants you’re growing well, and then you can feel up over time. And generally, I recommend that beginners start with things like greens, lettuce, like lettuce, or regular spinach, those are easy. And herbs are really easy for beginners to
Unfortunately, the things that most people think of their dreams of having a garden for the first time are those bountiful fruits, right, like tomatoes, and cucumbers and pumpkins and watermelons. And those things are not hard in the sense that it’s undoable for a beginner. But it does take a longer time period for those things to grow. And more things can go wrong on the path to growing those because, you know, I always say that I divide all vegetables into three categories. There’s shoots, roots, and fruits. So any vegetable can be put into those different categories, the shoots are the things that you eat the leaves of so this is, again, the lettuces and herbs, the roots are things that you eat the root of so carrots, radishes, beets, and then you have the fruits and these are the the large items that grow. And each one of those is kind of progressively harder in the sense that in order to grow a successful fruit plant, not only do you have to actually grow a successful chute, a successful route, and a successful fruit. And so through each of those professions, more things can go wrong. You have to nurture your plant in different ways do through different stages of growth. And so you can kind of isolate only needing to learn how to grow the shoot, if you start at that level, and then progressively learn, okay, now how do I grow a successful route? And then how do I successfully grow a fruit plant. So that’s always my my recommendation is start with those shoots. And not only are they easier to grow, but you’re going to have they’re smaller in size smaller and like the footprint that they take up. So they do work really well poor patios, or kind of balcony gardens. And you can grow them indoors to on a window sill, if you have a really bright south facing window, you can oftentimes grow those inside or you can get a small grow light and grow them inside too. And they also grow the fastest. So you know, even from seed, you might have a harvest in as little as 30 to 40 days. And you know, fast results are always great for beginners, because you can actually benefit and eat the plant quickly, instead of having to wait months and months and then maybe something goes wrong. And that’s just incredibly disappointing and disheartening for somebody who’s just getting started. It’s so much fun to go and harvest your salad like right before dinner. Yes, and it honestly is so much more convenient to because you know buying the bag lettuce from the store, the quality is always kind of like on the edge of not being great when you buy it.
And then you end up having food waste and feeling bad about it. And the same thing with herbs too. Totally. I know your research base evidence based So what are some of the other psychotherapeutic benefits that you know comes from garden therapy? Yeah, so I mean, obviously nutrition is what people generally think about is having healthy fresh food readily available to you. So on a certain service level. That’s true and and there is also research that shows that kids are more
Likely are more inclined to eat and try new vegetables that they have grown, because it’s more familiar to them, and they actually help have a part in creating it. So it does help to increase the chances of that food actually making it into their body, which is a challenge a lot of us struggle with. There is research really interesting research that shows that people who spend time gardening on a regular basis have better sleep. And sleep is just so critical for optimal functioning both physically and mentally. Having that time to get restored and sleep is really critical for overall health, as most moms know, going going through periods of sleep deprivation, you can find yourself in a really hard spot very quickly if you aren’t getting good sleep. So I think I find that very intriguing.
And, and like you said, There is research that there is a certain bacteria in soil that is known to elicit immune responses in humans and also trigger the release of serotonin, if it’s inhaled, like would happen if you were digging up your garden, that bacteria actually gets airborne at you and breathe it in and actually triggers good immune responses and serotonin release. And interestingly, it’s actually been used therapeutically with lung cancer patients, while they’re going through chemotherapy. And there’s been research showing that those patients have reported less nausea and less pain and a better quality of life while going through treatment. So it’s empirically starting to be proven that there are these really tiny things that you can’t see with your, with the naked eye helping and impacting us. And then socially, I think it’s just, there’s so many social benefits of gardening as well, you know, both, you know, when you’re working with your kids, you can bond with them. But also, I think it’s really important to, it can give you a sense of sense of purpose, working towards a goal and empowering you I don’t I don’t know. But I think it’s, there’s something magical about food growing and a plant growing and how large and substantial they can get in such amount of time that not only makes you feel really good that you were able to do it, but I think it also elicits a really powerful sense of awe and appreciation for nature that I think so many of us being disconnected from our food system fails to appreciate, in in our modern society. And, you know, just, there’s so many things about like the different parts of a plant. And you know, the fact that the head of broccoli that you eat at the grocery store, this blows people’s minds, when I tell them, it’s, you know, the head of broccoli that you eat all those little
pieces of, you know, tiny pieces of broccoli are actually flowers. And if you don’t pick that broccoli head, those will all open up into these beautiful yellow flowers. And, you know, just appreciating how plants, their natural cycles and how they grow and how they, how they are trying to achieve. The continuance of their own species is something that I just, we don’t, if you don’t grow, who would you wouldn’t know. And I think it just, it makes even something as simple you know how to broccoli, all of a sudden, this kind of awe inspiring, I never knew that I never realized how amazing nature really is. And I think it’s really critical, especially if you’re wanting to promote environmental sustainability is to appreciate how unique Our planet is how wondrous Our planet is, and to not take it for granted.
Yeah, that’s such beautiful work and beautiful metaphors and lessons that we really can apply to our lives in so many different ways. So thank you for the work that you’re doing and for sharing a bit of that with us today. Is there anything you want to leave us with?
I would say you know, the thing I always encourage people is if there’s anything that is calling to you about gardening listen to that call. I think there’s many different reasons that people decide to start a garden you know, oftentimes it’s to have something you know happy to do with your kid or to have fresh food available for you but there’s you know, many different reasons why gardening is is amazing and can support you in a healthy and happy life. So whatever your reason is for starting you know, keep that call listen to it and just get started even if it’s something as simple as just you know, one basil plant in your window, just start and don’t wait because honestly, I I waited way too long to start my garden and I regret the years that I wasn’t gardening and so I’m just that’s part of my mission and my passion is to get anybody out there who has an interest started growing and have them have it be successful and fun and benefit to their life and have them really love and enjoy the hobby. So definitely heed the call if it’s calling to you because it will, you know, you have to put work into it but you’re going to get a lot more benefit out of it yourself.
Thank you for listening. I hope you found inspiration and support for your mothering journey. I wanted to let you know that it’s about time from my spring rewild mothering mothers support group. Through nature centered, expressive arts, therapeutic invitations, and conversations with other mothers. we reflect on these nature connection experiences and the mothering journey overall. To learn more visit rewild mothering.com slash group for more information