Play in the dirt

This week I was struggling for inspiration on what to write. I don’t want to be repetitive, the sun was shining and I really just wanted to spend time outside enjoying the natural vitamin D. So I did. Which turned out to be the best thing because that’s what gave me my inspiration!

My first real go at gardening

I am not a gardener, I’ve always liked the idea or gardening and like to design pretty gardens but I have previously had a tendency to unintentionally, kill plants, not ideal in a gardener. However during the first lockdown I was spending a lot of time looking at my garden…it got boring. I decided to give gardening another try.

It actually turns out that not only do I enjoy it but it’s really good for my mental health. Evidence suggests that exposure to sunlight increases serotonin, regulates your circadian rhythms, increases energy levels and concentration.

Not only does sunlight play a positive role in improving mental health but gardening does as well, the fact that you’re focusing on nurturing, beauty, sustainability and productivity all good counter points to negative feelings. It’s more than this though studies have shown gardening can also;

  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • improve concentration
  • interrupt negative thoughts and other symptoms of anxiety
  • lower cortisol, the stress hormone
  • increase overall feeling of satisfaction and quality of life

Gardening is a very mindful activity, it focuses your thoughts to the moment and helps to clear your mind. There is also the utility of gardening. While I might not eat healthily in terms of amount I do try to limit the processed food I put in my body. Growing my own herbs and vegetables make meal times all the more delicious.

So here is how you could get started;

Start easy… remember your doing this as a mindfulness exercise to support your mental health so don’t go for any big plans that will cause you stress. Also don’t worry if some of them die…I planted 8 different plants the first time I tried 3 of them didn’t make it BUT I learnt from this, trying different things to get rid of slugs or workout why leaves were turning yellow kept my mind focused on the positive. I don’t know much about plants and their qualities so I just chose plants that looked pretty, smelt nice or were good for bees and butterflies, however my mum who is very green fingered suggests that choosing hardy plants is best as it’s harder to kill them off. A simple google search can provide lists.

Honeysuckle reminds me of my childhood garden

Think about your space… some people have large gardens others have a window sill, so it’s best to check the light and space a plant will need (root spread). While I didn’t check the hardiness of my plants before I got them, I did check the labels when I bought the plants to check if they were suitable for the light in my garden. As it’s a rental home I plant everything in pots so I don’t worry about drainage but I did check how large it would grow so I knew what size pots to get.

Be comfortable… I have a bad back so I get really stiff and sore when I’m bending over, which is somewhat distracting to my mindfulness! The very handy other half built me a potting table I can sit at with a chair but until that happened I used the dinning table or sometimes even my coffee table covered in newspaper. When the ground is dry enough and the pot tall enough I can sit in front of it. My point is think about what you’re planting into and how do so comfortably. Most plants need to be repotted either when you first buy them or once they start growing.

First go at tomato plants

Grow what you love… as I said I chose my plants based on if they were pretty, scented or good for bees and butterflies but there is actually more to it than that; I chose flowers that were purple, white or blue (purple being my favourite colour) that covered my pretty, I chose jasmine and honeysuckle for my scents because it reminds me of my parents house growing up and buddliha for butterflies and bees my favourite insects. I also plant herbs which I love to cook with and last year we tried tomatoes for the first time which were highly successful. When choosing your plants got for ones that speak to you, yes take into account your space, time and the needs to the plant but also think about yourself. Choose plants you’ll love to watch grow.

Utility…one of the things I love most about gardening is going outside just before I start cooking and choosing the herbs I’m going to use or the fact that everyone I love was given a gift of chutney made from produce that we had grown (either tomato or rhubarb) at Christmas this year. There was something so positive in giving people something that you’ve made yourself and watched being created from a tiny plant.

Homemade tomato chutney made from our very own tommies

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