My gardening journey began when I was quite young. Being born in a desert, I had never known what it was like to have greenery around me. So, after a few years, when I was airlifted to India (Gulf War 1990), I was fascinated with all the huge trees and green hills around the country.
During my teens, back in the desert, I coaxed my mom to buy pots, mud and seeds so that we could have some flowers blooming in our small balcony. I have no pictures of them, of course, but I still remember how excited I would be every time I saw a flower blossom.
Then, I shifted a few times to houses that did not have balconies, so, growing plants did not even cross my mind. Eventually, I shifted base to Bangalore, India and had kids. Only after my second child turned 2 (2018), with the help of my mom I began growing edible plants like tomato, chilli and Malabar spinach or Basella alba (one of our, Mangalorean’s, favourite vegetables).
Slowly, but surely, I also began collecting selected plants from people who were leaving their gardens behind as they shifted out of the city. Soon, from a few harvested plants, my balcony turned into a mini garden (without a paid gardener). During the pandemic (2020), this was one hobby I developed due to the distinct plants I possessed in my balcony kitchen garden.
Now, I have a bigger garden and enjoy taking care of it. As my ability to keep my garden healthy is enhancing, I found that there were health benefits to doing the gardening myself, too.
If you feel stressed out, you should get those gloves and shovel out and re-pot some plants or sow some seeds into the ground. Gardening is said to help lower your stress as it aids in reducing the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body.
I make time to check out my garden almost every single day. I must say that it feels great to see the flowers bloom and new leaves emerge. I also get excited when there are ripe tomatoes or chillies to pluck. I am thrilled on the days I see that a Queen of the Night or Lotus of the Dark (Brahma Kamala) would be blooming that night. Gardening is also said to help our bodies release a hormone that lets us feel relaxed, thereby reducing anxiety and depression, if any.
As you are required to care for and water the plants regularly, despite achieving results only in the long run, you learn perseverance. Other than the results (the beautiful blooms you see and the foods you eat), perseverance also brings about patience, maturity and wholeness in our lives.
Gardening can be a wonderful way of exercising, especially if you have a large garden. Like me, if you don’t like hitting the gym or doing heavy workouts, try serious gardening at least once in two days. You can let go of around 300+ calories by gardening for at least an hour.
If your garden is under direct sunlight, try starting your work an hour before noon time. Or, even the morning sun can be a good source of Vitamin D. As we age, our bones get weaker. When we are exposed to sunlight, Vitamin D helps normalize the Calcium (foods that include Calcium) and Phosphate in our bodies, thereby keeping our bones and teeth strong and healthy. Due to the vigorous work like digging, planting and pulling, gardening also helps keep our hands and fingers as strong as possible. But be mindful not to spend long hours under the sun for it may cause strokes, dehydration or other ailments.
Like our plants, our skin also needs a good amount of sunlight and fresh air. Regular exposure to the sun and nature can help improve our gut health and immune systems, hence making us less susceptible to diseases and chronic illnesses.
Did you know that gardening is part of the treatment for people suffering from Dementia? Along with the other benefits of spending time in a garden, gardening is also known to improve nerve growth factors in the brain associated with memory. According to research, post-surgical hospital patients who view trees outside the windows have been shown to recover more quickly than similar patients who viewed walls. The tree-viewing patients had shorter hospital stays, fewer complications, took fewer painkillers and got fewer negative chart comments from the attending staff.
If we have a herb or fruit garden, we are bound to get fresh produce that isn’t treated with unknown chemicals. Some simple plants that you could grow are tomato, chilli, basil, mint, ajwain (carom), onion, lime, lemon grass, curry leaves, etc.
Give your child some garden chores and they will learn about where the food comes from, what grows in their environment, what it takes to grow plants and what is healthy eating. Just the other day I asked my kids to pluck the basil leaves from the garden so that they could enjoy some pesto pasta. I assisted them with the activity and showed them how the basil seeds fly off with the wind and grow wherever they land. They loved the informative activity as well as the dish. Only if I do the gardening myself can I educate the kids about the same, right?
Gardening is not only educational for kids but also helps us, adults, to develop new life skills. You learn decision-making as you decide what tools you should have ready that would allow you to complete your task smoothly and without interruptions. We learn empathy when we understand that plants feel stressed when we don’t give them water, sunlight and fresh air or if we expose them to air conditioning for long periods. While caring for the plants and making sure they are not stressed, we learn problem-solving. You become confident when your flowers bloom and you eat what you grow. You also learn self-awareness as you tend to enjoy your own company (which I think is the most important of all).
Besides the above advantages of managing my garden, I also love the sound of birds chirping and the sight of colourful butterflies flying around. I have clicked a few birds but am yet to photograph the butterflies. I generally keep some water for the birds and nuts for the squirrels so managed to click them both. Any advice on how to get a butterfly to stay still?
Click here to see glimpses of my garden at present.
While gardening can be beneficial in many ways, you have to be careful, too. While gardening, especially be safe from pesticides, insects and harsh sunlight. Wear a cap to protect your head from constant sun exposure. Drink lots of water and apply sunscreen lotion while you’re gardening. Wear gloves so that you avoid pricking yourself while managing thorny plants. I also spray my exposed limbs and nape with mosquito repellents because, as you know, mosquitoes love my blood!
Learn why you should use square pots for gardening.
I hope these learnings from my gardening journey will help you in some way. Let me know how gardening has helped YOU in your life.
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.