By Wilma Bedford
With the lockdown and other restrictions you might for the first time in a long while have really had the time to pay attention to your garden and to enjoy it, or perhaps you now look at your garden and see the potential for food security, or just a healthier diet, or you want to create a delightful garden just for yourself, even if it is on your balcony. The new normal is to green your environment and to cultivate your own healthy vegetables and herbs. Whatever the case, your garden is a healthy place to be in; so exchange the gym and the consulting room for your garden.
Gardening had endless benefits, physically as well as mentally, not to mention the economic and health benefits of getting fresh, organic vegetables, herbs and even fruit from your own garden. You may think you don’t have enough space to grow vegetables, but an internet search and a visit to your nursery could provide you with enough ideas to cultivate vegetables on a small scale and creatively, for example using old tyres in which to grow potatoes.
Apart from eating healthier, gardening is just as good as a gym session. Recent research in Stockholm found that regular gardening decreases heart and artery diseases by 30% for people older than 60. Gardening requires muscle work, stamina, dexterity, problem-solving, creative thinking, sensory awareness and ultimately is an enjoyable aerobic activity. Together with your physical exercise it also lowers your stress levels. Further research over 16 years also indicates that gardening promotes cerebral health and that regular gardening decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 36% as the activity improves the mood and is an enjoyable activity. Gardening is an antidote for lifestyle diseases – heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and social and mental stress-related illnesses.
Involve your children and other family members in gardening activities; in this way they also learn valuable life lessons and you provide them with spiritual guidelines. Apart from the benefits of physical exercise, their stress levels also diminish precisely because they are in a green environment. The colour green has an impact on the psyche as it is a healing colour. It has been found that after procedures patients recover quicker in a green environment, which is why it is not unusual for hospital wards and corridors to be painted green and not red.
Gardening also teaches you acceptance. Our stress is caused by our trying to control all situations, but your garden teaches you that, notwithstanding all the precautions you take, nature takes its own course and that it is in greater hands. You also learn that the unforeseen occurs, such as pests, wind and weather and cold, but that setbacks afford you the opportunity to learn from them, for example that a specific spot is unsuitable for sun-loving plants, but that they will you reward you abundantly somewhere else.
A garden also teaches your child the value of reaching out, nurturing and responsibility, especially if there is no pet. And what is greater than a stranger complimenting you on your beautiful garden or the spectacular flowers on your desk? The same goes for the seasons and the soil; your child learns there are alternating seasons with specific characteristics.
Where do you start? If you already have a garden, feed and care for it as necessary; you will be awarded in abundance. There are various guidelines and gardening books to help you start your small garden or container garden. The basic principle remains: start small, focus on healthy soil and feeding, cultivate that which you enjoy looking at, know if your plants prefer sun or shade, tend to them daily and be patient – they will reward you.
10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening
Gilliham, S. June 19, 2020. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com
Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo Study of the elderly.
Simons, L. 16 Jan 2006. National Library for Medicine. PubMed.