Updated: Oct 27
Spring has come and gone here in South Africa and our first rains started last week. This time of the year always brings a sense of change and renewed hope. Spring heralds the beginning of warmer, longer days, lazy days spent around the braai (also known as the barbeque in other countries), and early morning walks at sunrise.
I, together with our garden, am being encouraged to come out of winter hibernation and start blooming again. Our Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow bush is sending out its beautiful scent into the air as the flowers continue to bloom.
Butterflies and bees are busy flittering from one flower to the next, while the doves seem louder with their coos of love! The joys of spring and the first days of summer! And, I know every gardener is also coming alive as they revel in the prospect of spending more time in their gardens.
Gardening has to be one of the most satisfying soul-restoring pastimes for many people (at least, the ones I know!) But, besides being soul-restoring, what makes gardening good for the mind, body, and soul?
Gardening: A Healthy Hobby
If you’re new to gardening, you may be wondering what are the benefits of this hobby. Besides giving you beautiful flowers, healthy vegetables, and herbs, a garden also creates a habitat for birds, insects, and other creepy crawlies, big and small.
However, gardening is beneficial in so many other ways. It helps build your overall sense of well-being, promoting a healthy body, mind, and soul. Being in the garden is a fun way to pass the day while giving you a sense of fulfillment.
Anyone can garden no matter how old they are. My 80-year-old aunt was in her garden up to the day she died, always creating magic with her green fingers. My nephew, at 2 years old, was growing his own little succulents in cans, with the help of his father.
Listen to Dr. Angela Catic talk about the healthy benefits of gardening.
Let’s discover how else gardening is good for you – mind, body, and soul.
Gardening: How it Benefits the Mind
We all know how good it is for our mental health to spend time in nature. Well, being in the garden can give you the same results. Gardening can help to alleviate stress by keeping your mind busy with positive thoughts while you’re in the garden.
Seeing the results of your efforts such as beautiful flower blooms, patches of vegetables, and vibrant herbs boosts your level of confidence.
Gardening can help release serotonin, a mood-regulating chemical found in your body. It works as a mood stabilizer and helps people suffering from depression, low moods, and anxiety. Serotonin also helps you to sleep better so if you suffer from insomnia, get into the garden now!
People who are connected to nature are happier and more likely to have a positive outlook on life. The same applies to gardeners. And, keeping busy in the garden is known to keep dementia and even Alzheimer’s at bay.
Being active and constantly thinking up new ways of designing your garden keeps your mind alert and healthy, lowering the risk of degenerative diseases.
If you’re a keen gardener, consider joining a local gardening club. Studies have shown that social engagement with other people is vital for keeping our mental health in a good state. And, what’s better than interacting with like-minded people?
Gardening: How it Benefits the Body
Weeding, turning over the soil, preparing beds for planting seeds, and watering your garden all require physical strength. And, you can build some good muscles and core strength by digging your own beds too!
If your doctor has recently told you to start getting fit and the idea of jogging doesn’t appeal to you, take up gardening. Not only will the exercise tone your body, but it’ll also give you better physical balance, mobility, and stronger muscles.
It will get your heart pumping while burning up fat. Check out these gardening calorie burners:
Mowing the lawn: 250 to 350 calories per hour
Pulling up weeds: 200 to 400 calories per hour
Raking up leaves: 350 to 450 calories per hour
Being outside in the sunshine also gives your body the necessary Vitamin D it needs to function optimally, especially your bones and teeth. Fresh air is good for the lungs and there’s nothing like a blast of cold air on a winter’s day in the garden to revitalize you!
Because gardening is an excellent form of stress relief, it also means your body’s immune system stays strong and vital. And, if you haven’t been well lately, time spent idling in the garden will start to heal you.
Gardening: How it Benefits the Soul
Connecting with nature is known to improve your spiritual awareness and connection with a Higher Being. Your garden can do the same and it’s a wonderful sit spot for contemplating life on all levels. Some gardeners garden as a form of meditation, giving them a sense of mindfulness.
Being in the garden brings us closer to all living and non-living beings and we can learn so much from observing the workings of the natural environment.
If you believe in spiritual messengers, then looking out for butterflies, dragonflies, and other creatures will help you get all your answers to your prayers. The cycles of nature can be learned through gardening and that in itself brings us closer to a spiritual way of life.
Gardening calms the mind, restores harmony, and allows us to think with more clarity. You use all your senses when you’re in the garden and this helps you to live in the moment, a vital spiritual practice.
Whenever you dig your hands through the soil, smell the roses, taste a pinch of basil, or see a butterfly in all of its magnificence fly across your path, your senses are coming alive. Hearing the birds singing in the trees above you heightens your hearing. And, there’s no doubt gardening triggers your sixth sense as well!
7 Tips for Growing a Garden to Get All the Benefits
It doesn’t matter how big or small your backyard is, you can still benefit from creating a garden. And, if you’ve only got a balcony or a sunny kitchen windowsill, you can still build a garden by getting creative with pots.
1. Do the Work
It’s tempting to get someone in to do the heavy work such as digging beds, weeding, and mowing the lawn. But, if you do the work yourself you’ll get all the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits mentioned in my article. Plus, it’s so rewarding when you see the results of your hard work.
2. Plant a Vegetable and Herb Garden
Growing your own vegetables and herbs is not only rewarding but also gives you nutritious food for the dining table. Herbs are also wonderful healing plants for all kinds of ailments for both humans and pets.
If you don’t have space for a separate vegetable patch, plant them among your flower beds. Herbs also do very well in pots, both outdoors and indoors.
3. Make a Compost Heap
Building your own compost heap is hugely satisfying and a good way of using up the vegetable and other food scraps from the kitchen. Raked-up leaves and other dead plant matter can also be added to the compost heap saving you from having to bag it and dispose of it at a landfill site.
The exercise will keep you fit and active, and your plants will thrive.
4. Grow a Butterfly Friendly Garden
Make sure you plant flowers and shrubs that’ll attract butterflies to your garden. This way you’re giving this beautiful winged creature a natural environment to survive in. And, you’ll benefit too from the beauty of your garden. Bees and other beneficial insects will also be drawn to your garden.
By creating your own patch of nature in your backyard, you’ll get all the benefits of gardening.
For my South African readers and visitors to our beautiful country - consider spending a day at my favorite, soul-restoring place, Random Harvest Nursery. Here, you can find a wide range of indigenous plants as well as discover how to grow a butterfly-friendly garden.
5. Grow Trees
I’m a lover of trees. They have tremendous healing energy and sitting under the shade of a tree canopy on a hot summer’s day is relaxing. And, if you have a tiny patch as we do, plant trees in pots. A bonsai tree will give you as much joy as a fully-grown tree reaching for the skies. Trees also create a habitat for living creatures that visit your garden.
6. Add a Water Feature
A water feature such as a small pond will add a sense of calm and harmony to your garden. If you can have a little waterfall, you’ll benefit from the sounds of trickling water which is known to be therapeutic. Ponds also give a drinking point for all the birds and insects visiting your garden.
7. Get Adventurous
Use the garden as a spot for getting adventurous with designs, types of plants to grow, and cultivating unusual vegetables. My partner loves all succulents indigenous to our country and will collect as many different ones as possible to add to his collection.
He also gets adventurous with growing all types of seeds in his greenhouse. By getting adventurous in the garden, you’re being curious which expands your mind.
Gardening, is without a doubt in my mind, one of the most beneficial ways of restoring mind, body, and soul. Over the years, I’ve moved many homes and each one had its own special garden that I loved working in.
One was a rose garden, another a wetland. One had a huge vegetable patch, while my current one is full of beautiful indigenous succulents, trees, aloes, and shrubs.
I get so much joy and pleasure looking at all the plants, hearing our little waterfall trickle, and watching the butterflies, dragonflies, and wasps buzzing around. The birds are always singing and cooing, and I take care to feel the soil under my bare feet as often as possible.
Whenever you’re feeling tired and weary of life, do some gardening. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you as it starts to feel uplifted.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world by commercial gardeners. It's found to be highly toxic and can cause many short-term and long-term health effects. Notably, research has linked long-term exposure to glyphosate to Parkinson's Disease.
Drugwatch.com has comprehensive guides to help educate those in the farming and gardening industries about this toxic chemical. It covers things like what it's used for, symptoms, and side effects. Read more about glyphosate here.
The other guide talks about non-toxic alternatives to Roundup so take a look and make sure you choose an eco-friendly method for keeping your garden pest-free!
This post was originally published on September 1, 2021, and updated on October 24th, 2022.