In its purest form, gardening is about connecting with the earth and resetting our clocks to the simple, natural rhythms of life. Try as we may, we can’t really speed up a tomato plant and make it grow by our time table. We must adapt and in doing so, gardening offers us a gentle reminder about what’s really important in life: food, water, warmth, a bit of loving attention, and some room to grow.
Gardening is one of the fastest growing pastimes in the U.S., as well as one of the healthiest. Beyond its spiritual aspects, gardening can be a great stress reliever. Digging, raking, planting, pruning, and harvesting are physical activities that provide a constructive outlet for tensions that build up in our bodies. Gardening activities draw on your endurance, give you flexibility and strength, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs, as well as helping with weight control.
And with numerous studies showing us that regular physical activity reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and colon cancer, it’s clear that we all must take responsibility for ourselves and do what we can to stay healthy. So if you think you might enjoy gardening, here are some ideas to get you started:
Start small and plant things that you will enjoy. If flowers make you happy, plant a few flowers. Over time you will find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t worry too much about the best way to do things. The most important thing is to just get started.
If you are hoping to reduce stress through gardening, it’s important to make sure that working in the garden doesn’t simply create additional stresses. That means, take it easy. Keep your gardening to-do list short. Stretch before and after working in the garden to minimize aches and pains. Take breaks to sit back, rest and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Listen to music while you work.
If a large garden sounds like too much work or you don’t have the room, think about trying Micro-gardening. Grow your own plants – food or flowers in containers rather than in a plot of ground. The size of the garden is completely up to you. There’s micro-gardening, and then there’s MICRO-gardening.
If you have access to outside areas such as a patio, balcony or porch, your micro-gardening opportunities increase greatly. You may not even need to buy special pots. If you have old flowerpots, buckets, half-barrels or even concrete blocks, you have the makings of great gardening. Make sure the containers are clean and have drainage holes. If the containers do not have built in holes than you can create a similar effect by popping some pebbles into the bottom to ensure water does not rot the root base.
Herbs grow particularly well indoors. Depending on your cooking style, one plant each can produce all the parsley, dill, thyme, basil and oregano you need for an entire season of meals. Follow the seed packet directions, or buy individual seedlings, and you’re on your way.
Remember that when container-gardening, the plants count on you for their moisture. They might not receive enough rain and dew to grow well, so water the plants when the dirt starts to dry out.
Growing your own makes it easier to get the minimum “five-a-day” servings of veggies and fruits the experts now recommend for health. Recent research confirms that most common fruits and vegetables come packed not only with the vitamins and minerals already known to support good health, but also with “phytonutrients” demonstrated to boost the immune system, retard the aging process, and help heal or prevent many chronic diseases.
Gardening is good exercise, especially if you take a pass on all the latest power tools and put your muscle to the tasks of digging, turning and spreading compost, collecting and spreading mulch, hoeing and picking rocks. Activities like these burn calories, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs.
Even a small vegetable garden can save money. To ensure savings, though, a backyard gardener needs to stick to the basic tools and supplies and keep a tight rein on the temptation to own all the newest gadgets. For the biggest savings in energy, dollars and space, look into intensive gardening, the art of producing a lot of food in a small space.
You just can’t beat gardening for stress relief. The simple acts of planting seeds and tending plants can restore balance and perspective during the most wrenching life crises. Research has demonstrated that people heal faster after surgery when exposed to natural scenery – even looking at photographs of green plants speeds recovery. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!