Are you one of the millions of people who have been forced to stay at or work from home? Are you one of those work bees who is addicted to activities and movements? Are you stressed by looking at the brick walls from dawn to dusk?
You are not alone. The coronavirus pandemic is compelling many people to change their lifestyles so as to cope with the new reality. That is why many are learning new skills and trying new hobbies. And many are rediscovering the beauties of the old-fashioned art of gardening.
I am an accidental gardener. For years I had been calling people to help with landscaping. The flower garden was already quite mature and didn’t need much work but the backyard was not developed. So, when I felt I needed to manage my stress levels I thought it wasn’t much trouble to water some of the plants that my spouse had planted earlier. Before I knew it, I was addicted and wondering why had I not seen that before?
There is a certain magic to gardening that those who have not tried it would not know. Is it any wonder that communities that are famous for keeping gardens are also famous for having many people with old age? Is it a surprise that many centenarians – in places such as Okinawa, Sardinia, or Nicoya – were tending to their gardens well into their 80s and 90s? Let’s get you in into the secret.
Gardening is a great stress reliever. It is difficult to say what is it about gardening that really helps with stress – it may be the needed break from stressors, the physical activity that renews the body, or the connection with nature – but it has been established scientifically that those who practice gardening have lower stress hormone levels in their blood than not. Gardening is in fact a great way to manage one’s stress, elevate one’s mood and improve one’s productivity.
Gardening is a way to exercise your body. If you find the treadmills or weights are not for you, consider gardening. Gardening provides a way to achieve moderate physical activity that is needed to keep yourself healthy and fit. Even an hour or two per week will help burn those extra calories that are acquired by hours watching the telly or working on a laptop. Besides, when you work in the garden you are actually working, not just producing a sweat. Gardening helps to improve your living environment, to produce extra food or cash for your household, and get you more connected to nature.
Improves your health. Gardening is associated with lower cases of diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and high blood pressure. It helps keeping most of lifestyle and old-age diseases at bay. Moreover, home-grown produce help reduce the intake of chemicals used in modern agriculture. The produce from one’s garden provides a healthy diet for the family. Finally, gardeners know that the tastiest food that one can eat is the one that they have grown themselves!
Challenges your brain. Gardening is a journey of discovery that will refresh one’s mind every day. Every plant has a unique life cycle and has slightly different needs than others. When I planted my first five papaya trees, only one survived. Only later did I realise that small papaya stems are very susceptible to stem rot, and mulching should be avoided in the early stages. But I have just harvested at least half a dozen papayas from the trees I have today. Lesson learnt. There is great pleasure in observing how what one does affect the quality and the quantity of produce that one gets.
All of these are things that you can try and experience for yourselves right away. Just a few tips to get you started:
Start small. Remember, you are just beginning, there are many things you do not know yet. Unless you are thinking of commercial farming, don’t worry about what you don’t know yet. You will figure it out with time.
Start where you are. Individual situations vary, but urban gardening can accommodate many needs. So, you don’t have land? Try vertical gardening. All land covered with a lawn? Change it gradually. You don’t have time? Plant in pots. Sizable land? Try fruit trees too. Start with what you have: forget about fancy designs that you see online. Those are professionals who are probably not doing anything else.
Start right away. The joy of gardening is to see things grow as you tend to them with your hands. Just pick up a couple of plants or veggies and put them in the soil. You are now a gardener!
Written by Grace Makakala
Ms. Grace Makakala is a lifestyle coach and consultant. A business administrator by profession, she has worked as a cook in a top hotel, and has managed multiple businesses (gyms, health, restaurant). For queries or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org