My mother and I have always been something of haphazard gardeners but as I have been reading and studying to figure out what I wanted to say here I can honestly say that I want to change that. Research has documented that planting and maintaining a garden provides benefits that can last a life time. Most of these will come whether you are talking about a food or flower garden. Your garden can be a much needed escape, an excuse to get outside or even a way to stay or even start being active. Many people find the idea of maintaining a garden to be overwhelming, especially me! But a garden does not have to be a large 15 X 15 plot, it can be just a few raised beds, the space by your front door, a window box or a few simple pots.
I have read about the many “lifestyle diseases” such as stroke, diabetes and depression that are becoming more and more prevalent as our populations are moving more and more into urban areas. Urban living is associated with many contributors that can adversely affect our health: high-fat diets, environmental pollutants, sedentary lifestyles etc. This trend has many researchers and health practitioners concerned and looking for out of the box solutions to try and help.
The CDC has stated that two and a half hours of a moderate level activity, which gardening is, reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity and stroke. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology had participants perform a certain stressful Stroop task and then randomly assigned them to read or garden. It was documented that 30 minutes of outdoor gardening significantly reduced salivary cortisol (stress) levels and fully-restored positive moods whereas reading slightly reduced stress levels but further deteriorated positive moods.
In this world of instant communication, fast food, get rich quick schemes and worldwide available produce we are losing the ability to work and wait. Delayed gratification is a real skill and it is quickly becoming endangered. As a parent I am always looking for ways to teach my children and to stretch myself. Gardening is the perfect opportunity to teach them and in my case to remember, many life lessons. The person that plants flowers or vegetables in spring gets to enjoy those blossoms and crunchy treats in the summer. Somehow that cucumber or summer squash that my mother-in-law grows is way tastier than the one I just bought. The flower my sons bring me from outside (even the dandelions) are more beautiful to me than any of the ones I pass in the store.
Even though my mom wasn’t the greatest gardener we grew closer together by working outside and it gave us a “safe” space to air out my teenage concerns and I can’t think of anything I want to give my kids more than that. Gardens bring so much good to us that is by no means limited to lowering health risks. It can affect our outlook on life, practical knowledge, awareness of ourselves and our love of the world we live in. All gardens or flowers require some level of care and some amount of maintenance to reach their ideal but it is always worth it. I pledge to make some green space for myself this summer. What about you?