The joys of gardening

’Tis the season for gardening.
Nurseries and garden centre add-ons at our local stores are bustling with customers armed with big ideas and good intentions. And even if our thumbs aren’t as green as they should or could be, the benefits of gardening are significant.
There are the obvious positive affects of gardening that include enjoying the fresh air and the absorption of vitamin D, and the exercise that keeps our fine motor skills and the muscles that allow for such in tip-top shape.
But studies have proven the benefits go much deeper than merely an improved level of fitness. A sense of well-being is restored when we garden, when we dig in the soil, when we plant seeds with the expectation and hope of growth.
A Netherlands study determined that gardening alleviates stress better than any other leisure activity. The soothing, repetitive nature of gardening allows our brains to shut off from being connected to our jobs, to our devices, to the bustle that daily living seems to require.
The University of Colorado determined a harmless bacteria found in the soil increases the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain—boosting the immune system and improving mental health.
An important setting to take advantage of the benefits of gardening is in our prison systems. Working with plants and soil reduces violence, improves mental health and self-esteem, and nurtures collaboration and a sense of belonging to something more than one’s self.
Gardening is a real tool in the complex process of rehabilitation. At one time, Canada had six prison farms: two in Kingston, Ont. and the others in Dorchester, N.B., Stoney Mountain, Man., Prince Albert, Sask., and Calgary, Alta.
In 2010, the federal government closed all existing prison farms despite the well-documented evidence of how these farms improved prison health and safety, and its very significant affect on the reduction of recidivism.
Meanwhile, a real concern exists about the disconnect between the food we eat and how it is grown. Getting children involved in gardening at school and at home fosters a healthy interest in how food is produced—and helps to facilitate eating more whole and fresh food.
Kids and dirt are a natural combination, but adding gardening to the mix and attentiveness is improved and retention of the curriculum is accomplished in this experience-based learning style.
The Whole Kids Foundation provides grants to establish gardens on Canadian school property.
Getting children to plant a seed, and to learn and understand how the seed grows, will foster a life-long interest in fresh food, so say the experts. Makes perfect sense to me.
Now it’s time for me to head outdoors to find my sense of well-being while I wrestle with the weeds that currently are winning the war in my garden beds.
wendistewart@live.ca

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