One of the many positives, and we do have to find and focus on the positives where
we can, of the lockdowns of 2020 was the deeper connection many of us found in
nature through our gardens and allotments. The very act of being out in nature,
feeling the sun on their skin; the wind in their hair; and their hands in the earth will
have brought many people a sense of connection and calm they didn’t realise they could
find amongst the uncertainty and fear.
Being responsible for the wellbeing of plants and produce may have given many a sense of purpose, distraction and community that they had not before appreciated; along with the understanding of why the love of their garden and allotment is so strong. Is this why we are seeing so many photos of nature and gardens on social media? Gone are the photos of nights out (well that’s fairly obvious why) and instead are the pictures of delightful dahlias and mighty marrows. It’s almost as if we have been allowed to peek inside the secret world of the gardeners and allotment growers and have realised they had it right all along.
In September 2020, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) published a new report which highlighted the importance of gardens and outdoor spaces to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of us all. It identified that gardening not only helps us to keep fit and connect with others but allows us to enjoy being part of nature. We can revel in colour, aroma, wildlife and beauty. Simply contemplating nature, the report says, “helps to rest and recharge our brains.” We can enjoy the beauty of the plants we grow, but also take delight in growing food and even herbs for curing minor ailments.
The NGS highlights how gardens and plants improve our environment; protect us from noise and pollution; help mitigate against flooding linked to climate change and help to cool us in extremes of temperature.
Simply contemplating nature helps to rest and recharge our brains Professor Alistair Griffiths (RHS Director of Science and Collections)
In my garden, I was already experiencing
what scientists have found: spending two
hours a week in nature is linked to better
health and wellbeing. The NHS is beginning
to offer ‘green prescriptions’ which prescribe
time in community gardening projects
and nature (as seen in The Independent
newspaper last September).
If you feel the negative effects of not being able to get out, of being isolated, or lacking physical activity, then you can start cultivating your own wellbeing. Even if you don’t have an allotment or garden, the very act of looking after a pot plant or window box can have many of the same benefits. See, feel and hear your own wellbeing grow with your seeds.
I know my mother’s love of gardening ran deep and her greatest joy was to pore over the seed catalogues, buy her bulbs and spend many an hour in local garden centres.
There was always something growing on her windowsills, and this is the legacy and baton I am now ready to carry. Nothing brings me more joy than watching how my plants grow.
- Gardening can build self-esteem. Even if plants can grow without our help, it is so rewarding to see your efforts bloom and grow.
- Gardening is good for your heart. It offers a great cardiovascular workout but also reduces stress and that is good for our hearts.
- Gardening can make you happy. Mycobacterium found in soil can help the brain produce more serotonin (the ‘happy chemical’) and so boost moods. (For more about this see: https://www.scienceworld.ca/stories/how-does-gardening-make-youhappier
- Gardening can improve your hand strength. Think about how you grip and work with tools and plants. It helps manual dexterity when “pinching out or tying back”. At the end of the day, give your hands some love with scented oils
- Gardening is good for the whole family.
Children are fascinated by how things
grow. You could widen their learning along
with their food tastes by allowing them to
choose seeds, watch plants grow and then
harvest vegetables or salads. Or they could
simply enjoy the colours and the insects
that are attracted
to what they have grown.
- Gardening can give you a boost of vitamin D. Even a winter sun on your face can help boost immunity and help with sleep patterns as you connect with the natural daily cycles and light.