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

Rutherglen Reformer - - House & Home - David Domoney

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

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