I started to garden properly a year and a half ago. Before then I had lived in flats and had the odd plant here and there, and then several things coincided at once; I started watching Monty Don on the telly, we moved to a house with a garden, and I started a new job as a teacher. Gardening became a chore at first as the landlord was adamant we kept the garden weed-free. I did not notice it at first, but I increasingly wanted to spend more and more time outside, and if it wasn’t in my garden, my partner and I would be in one that belonged to the National Trust. Working outside forced me to concentrate on what I was doing; I couldn’t do any marking while I was pruning back the buddleia. Fast forward a year and a half I currently work in a different field where I enjoy my free time much more – to the extent that I now have time to tend an allotment.
In light of National Gardening Week (http://nationalgardeningweek.org.uk/), here are 5 reasons why I think we should all garden.
1) You can create a small paradise for wildlife
We all know that the number of bees is dwindling, and that our much esteemed hedgehog isn’t doing great either. You can also create a small ecosystem in your backyard, by which having a pond will attract frogs, which will control other pests and will keep your plants happy. I was getting worried that we lived in too much of an urban area, because I had not seen any butterflies, ladybirds or bees at all out the back – plenty of slugs and aphids, mind. However, just this afternoon I was potting up some sweet pea seedlings and I heard a buzz (more of a bumble), after which I was delighted to see a bumble bee in my little courtyard!
2) It keeps you fit
When I am down in the allotment there is a lot of digging, bending, shovelling, pulling and, let’s face it, grunting. One of my allotment neighbours told me once that an hour on the plot was equivalent to 3 hours at the gym. I am not sure which science paper backed up her argument, but I do agree that it helps you feel better and more energised. It also gives me a sense of peace. For me, it is almost a way of meditation. I have been known to go to the allotment, start listening to my audiobook, and all of a sudden 4 hours have passed and I am still there. If only time flew as fast in the gym…
3) It helps with stress
I already touched on this point at the start of the post, but gardening is actually prescribed by a handful of doctors to help people with personal experience of mental health problems. I think this is a great initiative, and many experts and entities such as the RHS have backed it up. I swear by it. In fact, more than one non-gardening friend has told me they were out in the garden recently, and something as simple and repetitive as weeding or gathering up dead leaves was very relaxing to them.
4) It can become a job
There are charities such as Thrive who offer apprenticeships or training to young adults with learning difficulties or who have dropped out of school, and New Caledonian Woodlands who aim to support people to improve their mental well-being. I saw a feature of one of these charities in one of the Flower Shows televised last year, and I was thrilled to see that gardening was being taken up by younger people. The impression is that gardening is something you come to when you are old(er), however, there are younger people who are showing interest in this field, as organisations such as YoungHort demonstrate.
5) It allows you to be creative
Having a beautiful garden is something to be proud of. Last year, I visited the garden of several friends and acquaintances to photograph and talk to them about their garden. It didn’t matter how experienced they were, they all took great pride in their space. Be it because it was super tidy, because of its meaning or because it had come to represent them over the years, they all had the same look of fondness when they turned to look at their garden. It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is, it is a way of expressing oneself through nature.