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.
This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’
hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla
in collaboration with Mads’ Cookhouse.
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After shifting to my new home and having my own garden space, I am planning for a nice garden but have yet to start. That’s for your amazing post. I guess I have to start soon, as gardening is such a good therapy for reducing stress.
All the best, Pam!
I get my green thumb genes from my father. He would love growing season flowers wherever we were stationed. In fact, my brother and I started eating karela and lauki just because we had grown them ourselves. Didn’t know gardening helps in weight loss too. Could really use that.
Gardening is very beneficial. My husband used to love gardening. I always had a patch wherever we were posted where I used to grow my herbs. Homegrown herbs and vegetables always taste better.
It’s incredible how experiences in our childhood can shape our passions and interests for the rest of our lives. Your post is a beautiful example of this. Your fascination with greenery and trees after moving to India is an excellent reminder of how important it is to expose ourselves to different environments and cultures. Your journey into gardening from that point forward is inspiring and speaks to the power of pursuing what we love. Gardening can be such a fulfilling and rewarding hobby, and it’s wonderful to see how it has enriched your life. Keep up the good work!
I began gardening in 2018. And initially, when many plants died, I would be disheartened. Butover the years, I am learning about their survival strategies. And I hope to learn more about growing a wider variety. I truly find joy in growing plants–they are as sensitive as us.
I love gardening & my balcony garden has grown so much during the covid time as I had so much time on hand and nowhere to go. Even watering on a daily basis is so calming. The smell of the wet earth and getting your hands muddy and then the satisfaction of a nicely potted plant 🪴
You have such a beautiful garden, Cindy! Very well maintained too. I got into gardening during the pandemic but of late haven’t been giving it as much time and love. Your post is a reminder that plant babies deserve our attention too!
I agree with every point you have shared about gardening. Growing plants in your balcony is awesome. hats off to you. Like my mom, I have a green thumb and can grow plants easily. I loved my garden and miss it terribly. Every morning I would garden in my organic kitchen and flower garden. The pleasure of plucking fresh veggies from the garden to the table is a pleasure undescribed. I had a few fruit trees, as well. The largest guavas, pomegranates, bananas, mangoes, papayas and more. My grandsons loved the cherry tomatoes and helped me in the garden during the lockdown. Oh, Cindy, you have made me nostalgic.
Awwww, hugs, Harjeet!
I actualy bought a DIY gardening kit because I was keen to explore gardening and reading your post makes me think I need to get started on it!
Have not read such a informative, useful and interesting post about gardening and ya trees and greens around has all the benifits you mentioned.
I totally agree with you Cindy! Gardening gives a mental boost and eating fresh vegetables and fruits grown in your own garden gives such mental satisfaction and also improves our health. Your garden looks amazing! You are fortunate enough to have your balcony to grow your plants.
I knew of the many benefits of gardening but didn’t know it contributed to weight loss too :). I got my green thumb genes from my father. We always had a well-maintained lawn with seasonal flowers at each station we were posted. Continuing the tradition now.
I completely agree with you. I love gardening. I have a huge gallery where I planted curry leaves, corainder and variety of flowers. Then we had an emergency and we did not stay at home for a 2 months and all my plants died😐 I cried a lot. Now I am waiting to grow my baby so that I can have a mini garden again.
All the best, Neeta!
Cindy, as a child we used to have a terrace garden and my grandfather used to be fully engaged in it. As children, our job was to take the hose and water all the plants. Now, I do wish to have plants at home but I feel I don’t have adequate knowledge to get started. Yet, I always think that I should have at least a few plants. Don’t know what to do. Still in a dilemma.
Start with succulents that you can barely go wrong with. Than slowly explore further.
Gardening for me is an emotional booster which makes me feel happy, blessed and energetic in every way. Yes when the flowers blooms, the butterflies mingle and the birds jingle I feel close to nature with eternal peace in mind. I always encourage my friends to invest in gardening and that is one of the meaningful and creative way to manage stress and anxiety in life. The plants in the garden to me seems like my children growing every day to spread happiness and love all around. I strongly agree with each point you shared here in this post.
Thank you, Samata!
I read your post twice Cindy! Enjoyed reading about your gardening journey and looking at the pictures.
I grew up around a lot of plants in my parents gardens. After moving to the states I planted mary varieties in my yards and balconies. We moved around different cities finally settling in Chicago. During winter I stick to indoor plants.
There are two benefits –
Plants purify indoor air which can be more toxic than outdoor air. Snake plant for eg purify air 24/7, money plants do it during the day.
Plants also release micro levels of ions. These help improve mood.
If one has a mini water fall setup in the garden it increases level of ions. The sound of water fall itself elevates mood.
I like your post, it has your personal validation behind all the helpful benefits you have listed out.
Wow nice to know, Sakshi. I have a few indoor plants, too. Snake plants included! Hehe!
I too wanted to start gardening but could not as i always feel what to do or what not to. Your story really enchanted me that how you turned up being a gardener with your intense passion in this job. The part where you started selecting only selected plants and how a mini garden you got after all your hardships and so much zeal made me amazed. My grandma too used to do like this an finally ended up with her garden which is not only full of greens but a treat to everyone e who visits her. Your gardening rom living into barren land to getting shifted to greens and your urge towards greens and more of them deserves a salute of your willpower to have one garden dedicated to your life.
As I grow older, the more I appreciate gardening. That relaxing feeling my mom used to tell us when were little is the exact feeling I feel when I transfer my plants to other pots. Your attention is focused on it that you stay at that moment which is so peaceful, hence, very relaxing and relieves you from stress.
Good to know that, Jeannine!
Gardening has always been a part of us be it in the desert or out here like we have there money plant creeper to form a frame like on the wall and since we missed it from Kuwait we restarted it out here and many other plants too. My daughter is upto growing a dragon fruit plant lets c whats happens.
Wow! Curious to know the outcome. I love dragon fruit!
I love plants and flowers n gardens and nature. Since childhood I have loved to tend to flowers as we had them in abundance at home. If not anything my granny had assigned me the duty to water all plants and flowers and boy! we had lots!
I know you’ve come a long way from zero plants to so many now Cindy.. keep it up👏 and am sure everything uv written about is true as I find gardening therapeutic and a mood uplifter.
Hehe! Yeah you all some of the few who have seen my bare balcony before the greens arrived!
This is a highly insightful post about Gardening and its benefits. I have a massive garden at my place post-marriage and I love to nourish it. I had planted a mulberry tree when my daughter turned one; to see it grow and to eat the sweet mulberries is another level of bliss.
Wow, nice, Zenobia! Keep it up!
I have loved gardening ever since I was a child because I have seen my mom do it. However I , myself am a pandemic plant parent. Earlier I used plants only to decorate my interiors but in 2020, i began growing them to convert my balcony into an oasis and have never turned back since then. I consider this the single best part about the pandemic.
Seriously, I agree with you, Mandira!