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Sunday, December 4, 2022
Growing Together: Gardening is great for the mind, body and soul. Here’s how

With another year coming to an end, it is always a time to reflect on the activities and lessons learned throughout the year.

I think it is safe to say that it has been a very challenging year for everyone as we went through the pandemic together.

This week, I was talking with someone who said she was so thankful she had her garden to keep her busy and to keep her mind occupied while we were going through the different lockdowns.

I have heard this time and time again when speaking to different gardeners. A common phrase I heard was, “At least we have our gardens.” Even the Ontario government deemed gardening to be an essential service during the pandemic.

I got thinking about what role gardening played in our lives especially during these trying times. It is well-known that gardening is good for the mind, body and spirit. Everyone can garden, in some form or another, regardless of ability.

Let's first explore ways in which gardening benefits the mind. Have you ever spent time in a garden and found a sense of calm come over you? Just being in a garden can give you a feeling of well-being.

Gardening, or relaxing in a garden, greatly reduces stress levels. During the pandemic, we have become acutely aware of COVID’s negative effects on our minds. Researchers have documented that people who interact with plants recover more quickly from everyday stress and mental fatigue than those who are not surrounded by plants.

One study reported that people working on computers in an office with plants were 12 per cent more productive and less stressed than people in the same job in an office without plants.

Gardening also keeps you mentally stimulated. In a garden, there is always something different to see, always something to be tended to, and always something new to learn. So, spending time in the garden can be very beneficial to the mind.

Gardening, done properly of course, is also very good for the body. It is the second most popular form of exercise in Canada, attracting 48 per cent of Canadian adults.

It is a very balanced form of exercise, boosting endurance, flexibility and strength. The combination of these activities could help to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and even some forms of cancers.

Regular gardening activities burns an average of 300 to 350 calories per hour and up to 600 calories or more per hour with heavier work. Studies show that gardeners (especially those who grow vegetables) eat a wider variety of vegetables, which are richer in disease-fighting antioxidants and phyto-chemicals.

They will also eat more organically grown vegetables and therefore consume fewer pesticides. Another physical benefit of gardening is being out in the fresh air and sunlight. A few minutes a day will provide you with all the Vitamin D you need to ensure healthy bones. These are just a few of the benefits gardening has on the body.

Gardening is also beneficial to one’s spirit. It appeals to all the senses: sight, taste, touch, sound and smell, so it does encompass your whole being. Gardening provides a creative outlet. It also offers a personal link to nature.

Gardeners are usually patient people because there are no instant results. It sometimes takes a whole season or several seasons before you will see your creativity come to full fruition. Gardeners always believe that things will be better next year: the flowers will be more plentiful and the tomatoes will be larger.

Once you do see the results of all your sweat and tears, you get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Gardening activities help to develop individuals, strengthen families and build communities.

When families garden together it teaches the children valuable work skills as well as teamwork. Gardening is a universal language that brings communities together. It melts away the differences between ages and ethnic groups and unites neighbourhoods.

Gardening also gives you a sense of belonging and a sense of having given back to the world. 

So, it’s no wonder why gardeners are always happy and optimistic. It is an all-encompassing activity that engages the body, mind and soul. Regardless of your gardening knowledge and ability, whether you have a green thumb or not, you will find that gardening is a very rewarding endeavour.

Just remember – he who plants a garden, plants happiness!

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.