I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
Spring is in the air, the danger of frost is just about over, and I am dancing happy in that I may now indulge myself in one of my most cherished hobbies - gardening! I have so many plans for this year, I have already started my herb garden, the roses have been pruned and are getting ready to bloom, and my hubby is building me a raised planter for my vegetable garden. I am contemplating growing some miniature fruit trees as well. Planning what I am going to do, is part of the fun, and one way or another, I can already tell that this is going to be an awesome year!
Gardening has experienced a renaissance in North America. Those unfamiliar with the joy of gardening may wonder what is the point in all of that shoveling, tilling, raking, planting, weeding, watering, pruning and harvesting? Why bother getting sweaty and dirty when you can have the gardener take care of it and buy your produce from the supermarket? From personal experience, I have learned that there are many benefits to gardening and I wanted to share what I have learned with you, because as you know, I want you to be happy.
1. Physical Health Benefits.
The National Institute of Health now lists gardening for 30 -45 minutes as a recommended activity for moderate levels of exercise, similar to biking 5 miles in 30 minutes or walking 2 miles in 30 minutes. It is good for your cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, range of motion, hand eye coordination, lowering of blood pressure and also can help you to sleep better. It can be as intense or as gentle an exercise as you desire, or according your physical capabilities. As an added bonus, gardening helps to reduce CO2 emissions. Just be sure to check with your physician as you would with any form of exercise, first. Also beware of standing water as it attracts mosquitoes. Use proper composting techniques to avoid contaminating the soil. Also be sure to wear a hat, sunscreen, gloves, and to use proper lifting techniques. Your tools can be simple, but make sure they are well maintained and not rusty.
2. Mental Health Benefits.
Gardening gets you outside where you can enjoy fresh air and sunshine, nature and wildlife. It releases endorphins and alleviates stress and anxiety. I look at it as a free form of therapy (although I am not recommending that you give up professional therapy if you are seeing a therapist) and most gardening fans that I have spoken to agree that it makes them feel simply wonderful. It is also a great learning experience - something to keep the mind as well as the body active. There are a lot of websites on the subject of gardening where you can get answers to many of your gardening questions.
The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. Nutritional Benefits.
We all know by now that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. Growing a vegetable garden can change your dietary practices. Fruit and vegetable intake is higher among gardeners. Home grown fruits and vegetables taste sweeter, can be grown organically (sparing you the high price of purchasing organic produce), can be picked and eaten on the same day, and you always know exactly where your produce is coming from.
4. Practical Benefits.
Gardening is a form of creativity. Your garden can be as big or as small as you want it to be - grown in a window box, in containers on your balcony or patio, in the front, back or side yard. It is fun to have something to nurture, and it does not need to be perfect - it is yours to make what you want of it. Gardening is a better use of leisure time than sitting in front of the television obviously. You get a sense of accomplishment, whether it be a simple herb garden (which I highly recommend for beginners), a modest vegetable and/or flower garden, a small farming enterprise or a major landscaping project to improve the look of your property and increase its value. Just be sure not to bite off more than you can chew so as not to be overwhelmed. Start small at first! If you are strictly into ornamental gardening and not interested in growing your own veggies, ornamental gardening can be equally satisfying - I love flowers and grow them too - they make my yard so lovely. Many gardeners like to plant a few simple vegetables among the flowers, or to add some herbs to their flower pots.
5. Social Benefits.
It is fun to share the fruits of your labor by giving a fresh bouquet of flowers to someone special, or giving fresh fruits and veggies to your friends and loved ones! Gardens also attract pretty creatures such as birds and butterflies - which are fascinating to watch, and particularly fascinating to children. A pretty garden is also a great place for friends to gather to partake of cool beverages on a hot summer day, for a family meal or barbecue. You might even want to make friends with other gardeners and swap stories, or to join a gardening club.
It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought.
6. Spiritual Benefits.
Your garden does not need to be as fancy as the gorgeous garden above, even the most simple of gardens can become your own personal retreat - a calm, quiet, relaxing sanctuary, a place for listening to music, reading, contemplation and meditation. Sometimes in the evening I like to light a candle and enjoy how my garden looks in the soft glow. I recently saw advertised some solar powered tiki torches that I thought were pretty cool (although I have not yet decided if I am the a tiki torch kind of girl) - there are all kinds of solar lighting fixtures to be found to light your garden at night. You can also create and/or install many different types of water features to add ambiance and a calming sound.
Mostly, I enjoy the feeling of the earth beneath my feet. Seeing the first signs of tiny growth where I have planted seeds is one of life's simple pleasures. Also, having something to do that takes me away from my office or even my studio and gets me outside more often is vital. I feel closer to Mother Earth when I am working in my garden, and blessed for the opportunity to give something back to her for all she has given to me.
If you do plant a garden, even if you are already into gardening, send me an e-mail, or even better pictures to let me know how your own garden grows. I hope to hear from you - peace out!
Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie. ~Astrid Alauda