Develop a Healthy Environment

Written by: Deb Ego

Plants have a positive effect on our mental & physical wellness. They provide us with food, fresh air and contribute to the well-being of our entire planet and all its inhabitants. Just being outside and enjoying nature can help us relax and reduce our stress levels.

Studies have shown that being immersed in nature can improve our mood and feelings of well-being. A garden can be the place we escape all the crazy that is going on around us and enjoy a small retreat. Never underestimate the value of just sitting and enjoying the beauty in the garden. Relax and enjoy the birds and butterflies as they fly around the garden.  It is so soothing to watch the ornamental grasses sway and hear the leaves in the trees rustle as the wind moves them in the breeze.

Recent studies have also found that the soil itself contains a microbe that is thought to act as a natural antidepressant. Mycobacterium vaccae is being studied for its effectiveness in stimulating serotonin production. Serotonin helps to keep you happier and more relaxed. Dirt can help to make you happy. This is an exciting finding, but not a big surprise to any serious gardeners. 

We all know that being out in the sunshine is the most reliable way to get our needed vitamin D. Our bodies need this essential vitamin for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which is required for the development and growth of strong teeth, bones and muscles. This vitamin is often added to numerous food products that we buy. It costs us nothing to just go outside. Vitamin D is also noted for helping to support our immune system, and may also play a role in warding off depression. Gardening keeps our minds well.

Gardening requires us to be nurturers and to focus on the well-being of other living organisms. Many gardeners will tell you that gardening is a form of meditation.  It gives them time to clear the mind and untangle their thoughts. It’s a great way to release all the pent-up negative energy and focus on something positive.

Gardening gives us hope for the future. Audrey Hepburn once said: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.  Gardeners are eternal optimists.  We plant seeds and plants in the hope that they will thrive and we will enjoy their full potential at a later time.  We envision something wonderful coming from our efforts.  Many people plant trees with the knowledge that they will never see them to maturity and sit in the full glory of their shade on a hot summer day.  Planting a tree is a truly selfless act. So is planting anything that benefits pollinators and other creatures that share our environment.

The activities required for gardening keep us physically fit. The best way to keep healthy and fit is to keep your body moving.  Raking, pruning and hoeing will keep our arms and abdominal muscles toned. Gardening involves activities that require weight-bearing, bending and lifting, all activities that keep us healthy and strong. In fact, all gardening activities require movement on our part. No Gym membership is required although you may want to join your local gardening club. Gardening keeps our bodies well.

Plants provide food for us and all of the other living beings on our planet. Without plants we would not have vegetables and fruit, bread or pasta. Even meat and dairy products require that the animals have healthy growing areas for grazing.   To make honey, bees must have the flowers of plants to gather pollen from. In return, the bees pollinate the plants that then produce the seeds, nuts and fruits that we eat. What a wonderful circle of wellness!

Many plants are used as medicine. In fact, a lot of important medications have come from plants. Some of these include aspirin,  which is derived from willow bark. There is a whole movement dedicated to the idea that all good healthy natural food is medicine.

Feeding your family from the rich bounty that you have gathered from your garden has so many great benefits. Vegetables and fruits purchased from commercial sources may have been shipped from some distance away.  It will often take days or weeks for them to arrive at your local grocer. Vegetables start to lose their nutrient content as soon as they are picked. So, when you can harvest fresh produce and herbs from your garden to consume that same day, you will be ensuring that you reap the benefits of the most nutritional food available. As anyone who grows their own tomatoes or carrots will tell you, food grown in your own garden just tastes better too. And you can just step out the back door and gather what you need instead of driving off to the grocery store. Growing your own food can save you both time and money.

When you grow your own you will also have control over what is used in the soil and what is sprayed on them. For me that a huge bonus. I like to know exactly what is in or on the food that I am eating.

Plants clean the air and produce oxygen.  We all need to breathe to live. Have you ever noticed how fresh and sweet the air smells when you are out in the forest?  All those trees and plants are removing toxins from our environment. The trees also sequester carbon, which we are learning is extremely important for holding off drastic climate change and temperature fluctuations. They have been proven to affect global air current movements and annual rainfall amounts. We have now all seen the negative effects of deforestation.

Gardeners can be great stewards of the land. By practicing sustainable gardening techniques we contribute to a healthy environment. Composting helps feed the soil and increases the beneficial microbes that live there. Growing plants that provide food and habitat for wildlife helps to increase diversity. Good gardening practices help to keeps our planet well.

So plant something for wellness! Get outside and plant a tree, something to eat, or anything beautiful that makes you happy.  Plants are extremely important to our well-being and essential for the survival of everything that we love.

Deb Ego – Five Maple Nursery