It’s well documented that gardening is good for you. Physically, it keeps the body moving, exercises different muscles and helps to burn calories. It is also good for people’s mental health – reducing stress, aiding relaxation and lifting the mood. It may even boost the immune system and help fight depression though exposure to bacteria in soil. There is huge gratification to be derived from watching plants grow, tending to their needs and enjoying the harvest from fruits and vegetables you planted yourself. Being outside, breathing fresh air, feeling the seasons change around you and watching nature do its thing are all magical experiences. Indeed, so great are the health benefits of gardening that ‘horticultural therapy’ is now promoted by charities such as Thrive.
I believe there’s another dimension to gardening which is sometimes overlooked, and that is the aesthetic value of a beautiful, living, outdoor space. This is where the physical and mental benefits of gardening come together to nourish the soul. Whether it is a well tended allotment with neatly laid out raised beds, or a magnificent herbaceous border block-planted with colourful perennials, good design is the key to unlocking the spiritual aspects of gardening. The physical and mental benefits of gardening can be enjoyed anywhere, but when they take place in a beautiful setting, the outcome is more than the sum of its parts.
I also believe that including nature in your gardening is essential. Terms like ‘sustainable gardening’, ‘wildlife gardening’ and ‘organic gardening’ make complete sense to me, being a greenie. In many instances, a shift towards ‘green gardening’ requires only tiny decisions: selecting the wild (or ‘species’) form of a plant where possible, leaving seedheads for the birds, avoiding the use of chemicals. The cumulative effect of these tiny decisions will, in time, mean more robins in your hedges, more worms in your soil, and a small extension of nature’s territory into your own back garden.