By Christina VanGinkel
Working in the garden accomplishes many things besides affording the gardener with a wonderful view and edibles. It provides the opportunity to bask in the sunshine and fresh air, it offers a chance to get some exercise the old-fashioned way, no machines required, and it provides a great reason to purchase all sorts of soaps and such to clean up after a morning digging and planting!
Sometimes though, when a gardener heads to the store in search of a soap that will clean and is looking to avoid harsh chemicals and cleaners, their choices they find are often quite limited. If that happens, they can search out a source of handcrafted soaps made of all natural materials that have the cleaning power they need and want, or they could make their own.
Some good places to find handcrafted soaps to purchase include craft shows, smaller gift shops that accept consignments from local crafters, and even small to mid sized garden shops that try to cater to their customers in every potential way possible.
If these outlets are not an option for you, or they do not offer any suitable soap to choose from, then it might be time to make your own. Before beginning, keep a few tips that I have discovered along the way in mind. Melt and pour glycerin soap is easy to make and requires very few materials, so if your goal is to make a soap with as little fuss and mess as possible, in the mixes that you desire, melt and pour is the way to go. It is non-toxic, it lathers up well, and it can be made in small or large batches, depending on your individual needs and wants. However, the major advantage of making a melt and pour soap for your gardening needs is that you can choose which ingredients to add. Cornmeal and or oatmeal are ideal for their scrubbing factors. I like to add a bit of orange peel for the same reason, not to mention that it smells delicious. Hot or cold processed soap is another option, but it requires much more work, and involves the mixing of lye, with other ingredients. To keep your focus on the simple side of soap making, I definitely recommend the melt and pour process over the processed kind.
Another added bonus for gardeners is that many of the herbs and plants that they grow can be dried and used in their very own soaps. If you grow a certain herb for its medicinal factors, consider how well it dries, and if it has a pleasant scent. If so, create a small batch of melt and pour and add it to it. By being able to make a single bar or two at a time, melt and pour is also ideal for experimentation in this way.
Other good ingredients to add, that will work well to scrub away the dirt of gardening include ground up walnut shells, stone ground cornmeal, pumice powder, and poppy seeds. To keep the same hands that these ingredients are scrubbing the dirt off of as soft as possible, add in a bit of natural honey, dried goats milk, almond oil, aloe vera, lanolin, or vitamin E.
The next time someone asks you what advantages you gain by growing your own garden instead of just buying the vegetables, spices, or flowers you use, tell them that the benefits far exceed the pleasure from just picking your own vegetables and flowers. Explain to them that there are all sorts of pluses, such as using soaps that are as natural as the produce itself, not to mention the exercise and fresh air that every gardener reaps in benefits each time they garden. Also, if you are at a loss as to what to give a fellow gardener for a gift, fill a basket with some of the soaps you made both from the inspiration from gardening itself, and possibly from some of the dried plants from the very same garden. Gardeners know that the benefits they receive from their garden are multifold. They will be thrilled with the gift, but be prepared to share the recipe with them, because as a gardener yourself, you know that they will be wanting to make their own as soon as they use up the gift you gave them.