Gardening for Health, or Believing in the Seed Fairy

April 23, 2014 at 4:32 pm Leave a comment

Maymont Herbs Galore

It’s spring gardening season, and there’s no better place to start your plant shopping than Maymont’s Herbs Galore & More festival, coming this Saturday, April 26 from 8am to 4pm. You’ll find more than 50 vendors selling herbs and other plants as well as garden accessories, herbal cosmetics, delicious food and much more, and you can gather great gardening tips during Meet the Experts sessions and at the new Interactive Herb Station, presented by Whole Foods Market. As our guest blogger reminds us below, gardening is an inspirational source for both our physical and mental well-being. Dig in!

Guest Post By Leslie Vandever

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.” -Mirabel Osler

As the Endless Winter of 2014 finally slouches toward the exits, gardeners everywhere are peeking out from beneath their layers of blankets, feeling the fresh, gentle tug of springtime. Seed catalogs appear in the mail, crocuses crown, daffodils pop up here and there, and colorful seed packet displays burst forth in the local supermarket.

It’s an itchy, tickly creature, the spring gardening bug. But there are few activities as simple, healthy and satisfying. Whether you start your seeds indoors or plant small, sturdy starts from the nursery, launching the year’s garden is hope and joy combined.

“In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.” –Robert Brault

Even for the most serious and stoical person, gardening taps directly into Wonder. Will these seeds grow? How big will the plant get? Will I really have fresh tomatoes? What will I do with all that zucchini? Please can I have a gorgeous bunch of flowers to make me smile? In the beginning, gardening is all about anticipation, too.

What’s that you say? You live in an apartment, surrounded by other buildings and parking lots? Plant your garden in pots. Line them up along sunny windowsills, or on your patio or balcony. Don’t have any of those? Volunteer at an urban community garden. Or try soul-gardening: get yourself to a park, a nursery, or a horticultural center (or all three) as often as you can. Stroll about, immersing yourself in the green, the plant-y smell of moist, dark soil, and the sheer beauty of the flowers, shrubs and trees. Gardens lift the spirit, lighten the mood, and refresh the soul. Soak it up. Store it for later contemplation.

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.” -Author Unknown

The reasons for gardening—or even visiting gardens—are many. Gardening gives you something to do with your leisure time as the days grow longer. Being outdoors in the sun and fresh air, digging in the soil, discovering earthworms, arranging rows, deciding what goes where, even learning how to do it all is therapeutic and good for mental health.

And it’s not bad for physical health, either. Gardening requires movement. It pulls you out of your customary sitting position (at work, or in front of the TV) and provides a reason for muscles. When you’re squatting or kneeling while you plant or weed, your perspective on the world is all new. You discover again why you have knees. You get actual dirt under your fingernails.

There’s this, too: according to the Harvard Medical School, 30 minutes of gardening can torch as much as 200 calories! Be gone, sinful breakfast donut!

Playing in the garden means walking, lifting, and digging a hole anywhere from the size of your fist to one the size of and depth of an upholstered armchair (for planting young trees, of course). Weeding requires lots of ups and downs: up while you drink a cooling lemonade in the sun, then back down to tackle that shifty, invading Bermuda grass. Then there’s the mowing and raking, the edging, the pruning and trimming. The sniffing, then snipping the blossoms for the kitchen table. Phew! It’s work, but oh, it’s good.

Finally, when you create a garden, you get to eat sun-warmed tomatoes right there, right off the very vine you planted, tended, watered, nurtured, and saved from tomato worms. Bite into that glorious red fruit just like you would an apple. Never mind the juice. Enjoy it! Then pick the other good things you grew: the green beans, the zucchini(s), the eggplants, the peppers, the peas, the lettuce. Be still and watch that jeweled red dragonfly perch on tip of a sunflower’s petal.

Know peace. Know joy.

Leslie Vandever—known as “Wren” to the readers of RheumaBlog, her personal blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis—is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

References:
• Calories Burned In 30 Minutes by People of Three Different Weights. (2004, July) Harvard Medical School. Retrieved on March 28, 2014 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.htm.
• Goodman, Heidi. Backyard Gardening: Grow Your Own Food, Improve Your Health. (2012, June 29) Harvard Medical School. Retrieved on March 28, 2014 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/backyard-gardening-grow-your-own-food-improve-your-health-201206294984
• Ness, Sheryl M. Gardening Restores Body and Soul. (2012, July 28) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 28, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/expert-blog/cancer-and-gardening/bgp-20056406

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