The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin, English Poet (1835 – 1913)
Some of my earliest memories involve sights of rich, dark soils, green leaves that seemed to go on forever, plump black and yellow bumblebees, and sweet smells of tomatoes on the vine. I couldn’t estimate the number of times I ran barefoot on the cool, fragrant soil path of my Grandmother’s vegetable garden or the hours I spent alongside her picking beans in the searing sun. On the warmest of days, she would cut a freshly-picked watermelon or cantaloupe beneath the giant twin oak trees of her backyard, and we would devour the sweet, cooling, sticky fruit with great delight. I guess you could say I am nostalgic about gardening.
Although I’ll always cherish those memories, the idea of horticulture has taken on a more urgent meaning for me through the years. During my childhood, most everyone we knew had a garden. Both small- and large-scale cultivation was a clean, healthy way to work with Nature and harvest good food. Ideas of genetically engineered seeds and herbicides & pesticides that destroy the Earth’s soils and harm human health had not yet hit the radar. Now, after decades of folks devoting less time to growing, (and often suffering the effects of industrially-grown foods) home and community gardens seem to be making a comeback. Below are a few ways gardening can bring more joy and health into your life.
Plant so your own heart will grow. ~Hafiz
- You choose the growing methods. If you need to amend the soil or protect against pests or weeds, you decide what products or practices to use. You may choose to go organic, or at the least, avoid harsh chemicals. The microbes in your soil and your gut will benefit as a result.
- Good stewardship of your little piece of Earth affects the whole. You might seed plants that attract bees, hummingbirds, or butterflies that can help pollinate your garden as well as others. Plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon, so you’re reducing global warming on a small scale (imagine if every one of us gardened!) Flowers can improve the look of your plot of land as well as your neighborhood. And the fragrance of some blooming trees can enthrall anyone within a stone’s throw.
- Working in a garden is good for your mindset. Sue Stuart-Smith, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and author of The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature, writes about researched effects of gardening programs on those suffering from trauma, depression, & anxiety, learning-disabled children, and prisoners. The positive differences gardening makes for these diverse populations is nothing short of amazing: mood, confidence, and self-esteem are boosted, and chances of recidivism are reduced. When we work with nature outside us, we work with nature inside us, the author says.
- Protect yourself from food and nutrition insecurity. In the US, supply chains have been slow for many months. Purchasing healthy food has become more challenging, especially in heavily populated areas of the country. In addition, a CNN article entitled The US Food System is Killing Americans states our food system is our country’s pre-existing condition that leaves us all at greater risk (for Covid and its possible consequences.) Having home-grown veggies at the ready, along with a few simple recipes, can help you change that.
- Get your good, green exercise! Exercising in the great outdoors (and rest assured, gardening is exercise!) is doubly beneficial. Alive Magazine, a leader in natural health publishing for almost 50 years, shared a write-up encouraging outdoor exercise due to its ability to enhance vitamin D levels, which can help us avoid cancers and heart disease. Furthermore, due to outside sights and sounds being more interesting, outside exercise increases the chances that we will stick to our routine. When you find you’re short on motivation to move, gardening might be the perfect fix.
- Nothing tastes better than freshly-picked fruits and veggies! I believe I first became a foodie at a very young age, after eating almost exclusively the crops planted and harvested by my Grandma’s hand. When produce is pulled from the earth, vine, or tree and eaten soon after, it has more nutrients and much more flavor than that which is shipped for hundreds or thousands of miles for distribution. I encourage you to test this for yourself!
Breathing in the scent of Mother Earth stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, the same chemical that promotes bonding between mother and child. ~Robin Wall Kimmerer, from Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Gardening is an endeavor that benefits mind, body, and spirit. Whether or not you are nostalgic about it like me, planting a garden is making a stand that you will protect the health of the Earth and your family, and that you trust in your connection with Nature to help sustain you.
Blessings for Happy Cultivation,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.