Here in the mid-Atlantic part of the U.S., it has been the snowiest winter we’ve seen in a long, long time. It seemed that every other week (sometimes twice in a single week) we’d have snow. The kids had a snow day as late as St. Patrick’s Day. Are you kidding me?
Okay, you Canadians can stop smirking now. 😉
Finally, the snow is gone and we’re seeing “real” green. The trees are starting to bloom (some of us are sneezing into our Kleenex, but that’s another post).
But the warm temps and greening up of the landscape aren’t the only things that make me feel like celebrating.
I have a confession: I’m a backyard container gardener. (Shhh…don’t let it get around). I’ve been patiently growing my seedlings indoors for weeks, and in just a few more weeks…it will be time to plant! Wahoo!
Not a fan of gardening? Would you like to try but you feel like that dead philodendron in your dining room window is mocking you? Let me share a few facts:
Benefits of Gardening
Gardening has been shown to lower blood pressure, boost mood, and enhance focus; some studies suggest that it can even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It’s now common for garden therapy to be used in nursing homes and rehab centers.
How does gardening provide these benefits? Let’s take a look at what we’re doing when we garden:
- We get regular exercise – good for the heart, bones, and mood. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” brain chemical.
- We are exposed to sunlight: our bodies then make Vitamin D, which helps us absorb the calcium needed for bone health. Sunlight, too, is a natural mood-booster.
- We are surrounded by aesthetically pleasing sights, sounds, and smells (except for the manure part) in nature, improving our mood, our inner tranquility, and our sense of being part of something larger.
- We’re breathing in fresh air, and getting away from the indoor environment, with its chemicals from furniture, carpeting, cleaners, etc.
- We get a mental workout from the ongoing need to observe changes in our garden, tending to plants’ differing needs, planning the ideal positions of garden beds, and problem-solving (Me: evil squirrels). Check out this article for more information on the study done.
- And here’s a benefit that may surprise you: dirt is good for you. I kid you not. This doesn’t mean you should go out and start eating dirt, of course, but studies have been done which demonstrate that a certain bacteria found in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, boosts mood and improves cognition. The benefits were first discovered by oncologists in the UK, who were looking into the bacteria as a possible cancer treatment. Check out this article for details about the experiments done on mice. It’s super cool. Just the contact of working the soil with your hands and being within breathing range, they say, is enough to get this benefit.
And speaking of cognitive function, I’ve been considering lately (as I tend my own seedlings and emerging plants) the life lessons we can take away regarding plants and their needs. Apologies if it sounds a bit sappy, LOL.
What we can learn from plants:
1. Pay attention to and honor differences. Seeds have a wide range of needs and timetables: basil, for instance, should be planted with only 1/4″ of dirt covering it, while moonflower seeds need 1/2 – 1″ of soil on top. Some require soil rich in organic matter, while others are better suited to nutrient-poor soil. Some seeds germinate within days, while others take a couple of weeks before peeking out. Some need to be started indoors, while others have roots that cannot tolerate transplanting and have to be directly sown outside.
People, likewise, thrive in different settings, need different “nutrients” for the mind and spirit, and “bloom” at different times. Why compare ourselves to others? So what if it takes you longer to reach your goals than your neighbors, former classmates, or J.K. Rowling? It’s your journey, not theirs.
2. Recognize when it’s time to make a change. Container gardeners are familiar with the need to re-pot. Given enough time, all container plants will become root-bound. That’s when the roots run out of room and wrap themselves around and around the bottom of the pot, sometimes even coming out of the drainage hole. The plant will die unless it has a bigger pot and space to grow.
We are always growing, too, no matter what “grown up” age we reach. Our circumstances and needs change with time. Sometimes the old pot just doesn’t fit anymore.
3. Use support when needed. Climbing plants in particular – morning glories and beans, for example – need trellises for support. When they have it, there’s not much limit (save for the span of the growing season) to how high they can reach. When the plants are strong and have filled out, you can barely even see the supports they have been climbing on.
Using our supports – family, friends, education, and so on – enables us to become the wondrous souls we truly can be. The support doesn’t take anything away from what we’ve accomplished.
4. Adversity can strengthen. Did you know that when you’re growing tomato seedlings you should put a fan on them and brush your hand across the tops of the leaves several times a day? This strengthens their stems so the seedling plants can hold themselves upright without support. Click here for more info.
Do you like to garden? Have any hobby that relaxes you, gives you joy, or makes you feel contemplative? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,