The sun has been out and blossom is starting to fill the trees; spring is well and truly here and with it has come the desire to get outside. There’s been talk in the newspapers recently that younger generations are less likely to garden than was common in the past. Whether this is due to limitations related to renting, lack of outdoor space and time constraints, there is still a lot to be said for getting your hands dirty in whatever way you can manage. From herbs on the windowsill to houseplants in the bedroom, there’s so many ways to get some green into your life and to enjoy the many benefits gardening can bring!
Studies have shown that gardening lowers production of the stress hormone Cortisol, suggesting that getting your hands dirty planting can improve your mood and decrease the negative effects of stress on the body and brain, potentially aiding your health and lifespan. The physical impact on those able to do moderate intensity gardening (digging, pruning etc.) on a regular basis can help cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and for those able to garden outdoors, the vitamin D from the sun absorbed by your skin can also be highly beneficial (don’t forget to use sunscreen though if you’re outside for a sustained period of time).
There has also been proven to be mental health benefits gained from regular gardening; the therapeutic and rewarding nature of the work as well as the naturally relaxing surrounding can aid anxiety and depression. Spending time in a garden (especially one that you’ve worked on!) can be an instant mood booster, and I find it very helpful in easing panic attacks.
Home-grown fruit and veg are great for eating and cooking can be improved with herbs from a window box, and even flowers can be cut and placed in jars or vases around the house for free!
Ways To Get Involved:
Not everyone has a garden or a space big enough to plan out, or can spend the time maintaining a garden, but most people can have some sort of plant or greenery in their lives.
Herbs can be popped in a window box, in a pot outside or even kept in a sunny spot in the kitchen; Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Parsley, Sage, Marjoram and Mint are popular and versatile ones that are simple to grow and taste delicious.
Houseplants make a fantastic gift or a treat for yourself that will bring some nature to urban living and can reward your time and effort for years to come if cared for properly. They are also often efficient oxygen producers and are great for putting next to work areas with screens. Try Peace Lilies (bonus, these babies filter toxins from the air AND have beautifully simple white flowers), Spider Plants, Dragon Trees (similar to palms, but keep away from cats and dogs), Calathea or stunning Orchids, amongst others!
Succulents are a popular and fashionable choice currently, with lots of cute, minimalistic options available in colourful pots. They do require a little bit of specialist knowledge when it comes to positioning and watering, but there’s plenty of guidance available if these lush little plants take your fancy.
If you worry you’ll forget to water your plants the simplest option is to start with cacti, or if you want something a little bigger, a mother-in-law’s tongue! These low maintenance plants do require the occasional watering, but mostly they’re high gains for little work and there’s a massive amount of variety; a great place to start off that’ll soon get you catching the gardening bug!
Words by Heidi Teague