I was lucky enough to discover the joy of gardening at an early age. That's me in the first picture, helping at my parents allotment. The contentment that comes from being more connected with nature, through growing your own food and learning a gardeners patience were vital life lessons. Scrumping tomatoes still warm from the greenhouse; eating peas straight from the pod; watching tiny seeds transform into plants that were taller than me and that deep in your soul happiness that time in green spaces brings, were all part of my journey to becoming the Medical Herbalist I am today.
I count myself very lucky to have my own garden, never more than in 2020, I'll be honest, I've had my ups and downs throughout the lock-down and spending much more time gardening has been the one thing that has got me through these challenging times.
Its a sad fact that 1 in 8 children and 1 in 4 adults in the UK will experience mental ill health each year. I suspect these numbers will increase this year. There is strong evidence highlighting the health benefits of gardening, and growing your own food in particular, including improved confidence, resilience, communication, concentration and ultimately self-belief.
Gardening improves mental health, enables better physical health, helps you to acquire new skills and enjoy the great outdoors.
My top tips would be:
- If you haven't gardened before, start simple, do a bit of research so you don't attempt something too ambitious until you've found your 'gardening feet'.
- you don't need an actual garden. Many things like herbs, salad leaves, chillis and bell peppers will grow on a sunny window ledge or balcony
- Grow things you like! Broad beans are really easy to grow, but there isn't a lot of point growing them if you wont want to eat them
- If you've got kids, get them involved! Mine wouldn't touch broccoli until they'd grown it themselves and now its one of their favourite vegetables
- Grow some pretty flowers too, not only do they make your garden more bee friendly, their scent and colours are uplifting
- Share. Share seeds, cuttings, plants and tips with other gardeners, its a great way to grow your garden without it costing anything. If you share with friends the plants will also remind you of them when we can't be together. The beautiful purple hardy geraniums in the picture below were painstakingly transplanted from my grans house when she had to move into a nursing home. Sadly she is now longer with us but every year their luminous beauty reminds me of her and makes me smile.
If you want more tips Life at No. 22 has some great free resources