Gardeners already know the secret soothing effects gardening has on the mind because it's what keeps them/us out there pottering around.
Are we born gardeners? I think there's a gardener in most people and there would probably be more people in the garden if they had the time but unfortunately spare time is somewhat scarce in our modern society.
I would like to convince more people to discover the positive aspects of gardening and to especially try it early in life and not think it's an after career, in retirement, thing to do as it most certainly isn’t. In fact, the younger we start gardening the better we'll be at it in retirement (when we do have more time). I sometimes reflect on my 20s and wish I had been more involved in self sufficiency and gardening and if I had my time over knowing what I know now about life without being clouded by the “immortality of youth,” I would have dedicated more time to gardening. But, it's easier said then done when you're actually in your 20's isn't it…
We (gardeners) don't normally analyse the reasons for getting out in the patch or pruning the ornamentals – it's just something we dedicate time in our lives to do. I reckon, if I went around asking people to explain the 10 top reasons for why they garden they'd probably all have different lists and even if some of the headings were the same the explanations would likely be different anyway.
Below, I've written my 10 reasons for why I think gardening captivates so many of us:
The anticipation of how a plant or seedling will grow can be pretty addictive. We have made the choice to give this plant the opportunity to show us what it can do by selecting the position, improving the soil, and creating the environment for its success. How well this plant grows is largely dependant on how good our set-up considerations and implementations were and the feeling of something succeeding due to our help or intervention and nurturing is one of those hard to explain human emotions which enrich good peoples lives. I guess fulfilment can describe the emotion if I really had to select only one word.
Environmentalism doesn't have to be big ideas, mass people movements, or solving complex ecological problems for it to be effective. Everyone who maintains a garden is an environmentalist (whether they realise it or not or even like it or not) and every backyard vegetable grown or native planted helps (in different ways) retain the plants and wildlife we all love.
Day-dreaming and falling into a “gardening trance” must be like the minds equivalent of play-time for a child. The task at hand is so routine (but not boring) that the mind can afford to rest and play – I think day-dreaming is as important as sleeping.
Unlike driving a car, gardening can be a truly safe place to day-dream with many tasks being methodical and lacking deep concentration or mind effort. Some of us are swamped with work and even social activities requiring immense concentration for lengthy periods of time with serious consequences if we don't pay attention. This constant mind workout takes a great effort to maintain; therefore, we must try and give our minds some down-time to recover.
Gardening can be one of those outlets freely available to most where people can be active but still be relaxing with their hands “doing” and their minds laying back on a deckchair dreaming away.
Being proud of achievement is a great feeling and gardening is one of those activities that can make a small amount of effort look like an amazing achievement; but hay, don't tell anyone it was easy!
Often, I've received complements for gardening endeavours, which really have been easy and only taken minutes to do, like plant a border of rainbow silver-beet for instance, which can make a vegetable garden look stunning. Regardless of effort, you don't need someone else to make you proud or to admire your work as self admiration over your gardening efforts is a constant daily event we gardeners do anyway – however, it is nice to be told occasionally.
Gardening is a useful endeavour anyone can undertake. Whether their gardening efforts produce food, help a purpose, or just give joy from looking, it's a useful and necessary part of our society. As gardeners, we help to enrich our society and environment by simply doing what we enjoy.
Many mental health associations across the world commonly deal with individuals feeling like they have no purpose or are not useful to society and that's so sad. Gardening is the type of endeavour I believe can help people to understand a feeling of self-worth and revitalise a feeling of purpose.
Also, “gardening therapy” can definitely help to reduce stress and on a personal level I have no doubt getting out in the garden helped settle me after my full-on military career ended.
When we garden we are exposed to lots of beneficial behind the scenes goodies like vitamin D from sunlight. We humans need some exposure to sunlight to survive and stay healthy (of course this doesn't mean overexposure or getting burnt) but with the right protection and a sensible approach being outdoors is vitally important for our good health.
So to, are the things we eat from our garden like the fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs which haven't lost any of the vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants through storage, transportation, chemical applications, or other ways to change the produce from its natural state. Eating some produce straight from our gardens is the best way to ensure our bodies get the maximum nutrients from the food as nature intended.
Feeling fit is a wonderful way to start every day of your life. Our bodies are designed to be active and when we aren't active enough we gain unwanted fat, our lungs lose aerobic capacity, and our muscles become weaker than they should. The consequences for not “doing enough” can be quite severe and actually make everyday life and common tasks harder to accomplish. Over time, this inactivity undoubtedly leads to a premature death, which tragically could have been prevented with some simple daily exercise – like gardening.
If a person would prefer not to maintain their fitness through activities like: sports, running, weight training etc, then they should at least consider gardening as an action to maintain some personal fitness level.
7. Inventive or a problem solver
If we're not day-dreaming about our holiday to Fiji or how great this cucumber vine will look on the trellis once it grows, then we can use gardening time to let the mind solve issues or problems we've otherwise been too busy to think about. Sometimes just pondering a problem or an argument in the garden can give clear time to think and put things into perspective.
Gardening has also given me some of my best inventive ideas to solve things like landscaping dramas or household maintenance issues just by simply having the opportunity to think more deeply whilst sowing a few seeds etc.
8. Generosity and sharing
We know the act of giving is another one of those acts producing good emotional feelings (similar to helping other people and things succeed) and if we all gave and shared more; to use an awful cliché, the world would be a better place. I don't mean giving money either, I mean giving produce and even help or advice on how to grow your own.
It's interaction through gardening between friends, family, neighbours, online communities, or even farmers markets that strengthen relationships and underpins great societies. Sharing, giving, or bartering produce also saves on resources (like transportation) and reduces waste.
If more people took note of John Lennon's song – Imagine and actually understood we're all mortal beings the world would be even better. Too many good people get upset daily over trivial matters (and, I'm guilty of it too at times); we'll all be gone soon, God or no God, so we need to keep what really matters in perspective. By slowing life down through gardening, it really does give us extra time to appreciate creation and evolution of life, which we've been/are lucky to be part.
Think of how fast the last 10 years has gone and now focus on slowing the next 10 years down. Smelling the roses really does work! And, it may even add another 10 years to our lives.
I associate gardening or gardens with flowers, food, family, and kids having fun.
For children, gardens are important for their early childhood development and that's not just my assumption or observations it's actually the latest findings from recent childhood developmental studies, however, it's hardly surprising.
Exploring the garden isn't just for kids though; adults benefit from being outside in a beautiful garden setting just as much. Celebrating through BBQs or picnics amongst living nature often makes the day more special than indoor events. Just as kids love to pin their ears back and run around the garden like an over excited puppy left off the leash in the park, we adults like to celebrate and enjoy the freedom the garden offers too.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed reading my 10 reasons to garden as much as I've enjoyed writing them down – I think I've even found a few things out about myself within that I hadn't considered before.
If you have any mindful reasons to garden and would like to share them just use the comments section under the post (your email address is not mandatory) and it would be a privilege for me to include them.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM