Keep yourself on crop form
From growing herbs to planting scented beauties, discover some surprising ways to sharpen your mind and get a healthy boost
Gardening is rewarding on so many levels. You get active and creative up close to nature, plus you can de-stress, unwind and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
And now we find out gardening is so good for us we should be prescribed it. Well, that’s what a major study into digging, planting and weeding has revealed. And I’d have to agree.
The King’s Fund report last week even called for gardening to be offered on the NHS to help ward off dementia and lower the risk of heart disease.
Other studies show it cuts the risk of cancer and obesity, improves balance – helping prevent falls in older people – and can reduce stress, depression, loneliness and anxiety.
It’s great the experts are catching up with the rest of us – gardeners have known for decades about the therapeutic nature of their hobby. It not only makes you feel better but helps your health and well-being too.
At last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, I conducted an experiment that showed how plants can make you feel happy and lift up your mood just by looking at them. I’m also ambassador for Thrive, a charity that helps people living with disability via therapeutic horticulture.
Last week’s report called for GPs to send patients to community gardening schemes and for more gardening projects across the country.
Your garden should be a place where you can recharge your batter ies and help your own world feel better. The fact that humans can identify more different shades of green than any other colour says it all to me.
So what sort of projects can help make your own garden an oasis of health and keep you in tip-top shape?
Growing your own vegetables is a brilliant way to get started. It will give you an immediate sense of achievement and the enjoyment of eating something you’ve produced yourself. Start with tomatoes, strawberries or even herb pots outside the back door or on a sunny kitchen windowsill. Try oregano for your pizza, thyme for soup or a bunch of chives to add to salads.
A couple of growbags for tomatoes will kick things off nicely. There’s still plenty of time to buy young plants from your garden centre and get growing. Watching them develop from plant to plate is terrific and you’ll have a real appreciation of their flavours.
Another garden trick is to use scent to foster a sense of wellbeing. The King’s Fund report said gardening can also help dementia patients with one trial showing that six months of gardening resulted in a slowdown of cognitive decline over the next 18 months.
I plant sweet pea because the smell reminds me of my grandma’s garden when I was young. All it takes is a blast of scent and I’m right back there – it’s a wonderful sensation. You might find the scent of jasmine or gardenia reminds you of a treasured holiday or geraniums remind you of your mum. A garden should be like that old jumper you wear on a Sunday – familiar and comfy.
A new planting project can have multiple health benefits. If you’ve always fancied a new bed or border, how about planning it out and getting started?
Mark out the boundaries using your hose for easy adjustment before you start digging. Remove the top soil or turf and dig down about 10in. Add compost or other organic matter and you’re ready to plant.
You’ll be exercising your upper body and legs and giving yourself a cardio workout, too. Don’t overdo it – take frequent breaks and stop if you feel tired and achy.
Giving the lawn a mow on a regular basis or getting out the hoe for some weeding will get your heart going nicely. Even choosing plants from a garden centre should lift your spirits. Mark your space and make a plan of what should go where. Then pick up your plants. There’s pleasure to be found in every stage of the process.
To cap it all, when you’re done, you’ll be able to sit out with a relaxing cuppa and be proud of your achievements.
The authors of the report last week said: “Gardens are an extraordinary national resource.
“Nearly 90% of UK households have a garden and half the population are gardeners.
“But we could do much more to nurture and maximise the contribution gardens make to enhancing people’s health.”
So let’s all do ourselves a favour and get gardening.
TENDING your borders or buying new plants can give you a sense of great wellbeing