At this time of year, we are blessed with some gorgeous weather, and can get to enjoy the outdoors. For many of us, pottering in our gardens can be a valuable hobby.
Therapeutic Aspects of Gardening
Gardening, or growing plants not only keeps you physically fit and flexible – it is also excellent for improving your mental wellbeing. Living Life to the Full team member Theresa Kelly explains; Horticulture has a long standing relationship with mental health where gardening occupied a large part of daily life for people.
Initially it was recognised as a way of keeping people engaged, out in the fresh air and coincidently provided a method of relaxation. Caring for plants and vegetables involves levels of responsibility, instilling a feeling of accomplishment and pride meanwhile forming a strategic part of a perhaps otherwise uneventful day when someone is struggling to keep up their usual daily routine (Hospital magazine, 1998).
In more recent times we have we have ‘green gyms’ where the benefits expected include companionship, relaxation, decision making, planning skills and education. Appreciation of seasons and plants, communication skills and an active interest in one’s surroundings regardless of the level of involvement and ability of individuals aids recovery for some people – there’s usually something for everyone.
Gardening for Keeping Physically Fit
Tending to a garden keeps you functionally fit. Lifting pots, pruning, clipping and planting with lots of different balanced bends and twists can help your joints and strengthen your muscles. It is also really important to make sure you have proper posture while doing these things as you can also easily strain your back. It is best to squat while gardening, it is one of the best ways to keep your balance and keeps your ankles, hips and back strong without over-straining.
Growing Fruit and Vegetables from Scraps In Your Home
As well as saving on food wastage you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement-instead of tossing left over veggie stems, butts and seeds in the bin after cooking, you can give them new life by
re-growing them into plants. Many fruits and vegetables you will have in your fridge can be turned into a fresh new crop easily with soil, water and sunlight and you are doing a good thing by reducing your food waste and enjoying fresh produce at your fingertips from scraps.
Here are a few suggestions and how to get them growing:
Remove roughly 2 inches from the base of a bunch of celery and place in a shallow bowl with water, spraying the top daily to keep it moist. Replace with fresh water every couple of days until a new root system emerges, then transplant into the ground.
Most herbs will propagate through cuttings-snip at a node (where sections of the plant merge), and place the cut portion in a jar of water on a windowsill. Replace the water every one or two days until roots emerge, then transplant to a container or the ground.
Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow from kitchen scraps-simply take cloves and place them pointy-side up in the ground, 4-6 inches apart. Plant them outside in fall before the first frost, and enjoy fresh garlic the following year. Plant them inside in a container any other time and enjoy garlic greens, but not a full head.
If you’re only using the green part of the onions, retain the white part with a small amount of pale green and place it in water on a sunny windowsill. Refresh the water regularly and use green portions as they grow, or transplant into a pot with soil for more extended use.
Save the seeds from your next bell or hot pepper. Plant them directly into soil, and water them regularly. Once a new plant emerges, transplant it to a larger container or outdoors, where it will thrive best in direct light and warm temperatures.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
It is easy to accidentally start growing new potatoes by accident- in a bag in the cupboard for too long you will find them covered in sprouts. If you cut potatoes into 2-inch pieces and let them sit on the countertop for a couple of days to dry, you can then sow them directly into the ground in early spring, and enjoy homegrown potatoes in early to midsummer.
Carefully cut the outer skin (containing the seeds) off the berry, or extract seeds using tweezers. Place the skin or seeds in a container with soil, cover with soil, place in a sunny spot and water regularly until sprouts emerge. Transplant the sprouts to a strawberry pot or outside garden in springtime.
Plant the seeds from your tomato into a small pot, keep well-watered on a windowsill, and wait for a new plant to emerge. Once the plant reaches several inches tall, transplant it to a larger pot.
Unlike other fruits, pineapples are grown from other pineapples, not seeds. Take the top of an existing pineapple, dry it out and plant it. Although it takes years to grow a pineapple, it is well worth the wait.
If you have some left over ginger, give it new life by planting it and growing more. Soak the root in warm water overnight, then plant it sideways in a container, cover with soil and place in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist, and in a few months you’ll have enough ginger to harvest.
Other Home-Grown Ideas for the Garden
If you are inspired to grow vegetables at home in your garden. Here are a few more of the easy to grow at home in your garden ideas:
Salad Leaves- Sow though summer and harvest 3 weeks later
Crunchy fresh leaves with a fantastic range of textures and flavours. Try sowing throughout the summer months, and you’ll be cutting fresh leaves for your sandwiches just 3 weeks later! They will continue growing so you can harvest them again and again.
Radishes- Sow 4 weeks after last frost and throughout summer, harvest a month later.
They’re easy to grow in containers, or sow them directly into the ground throughout the summer for a succession of crunchy, colourful crops.
Peas – sow March to June, harvest 2-3 months after.
Peas are easy to grow and enjoy cooler weather. Sow them directly into the ground from March to June and look forward to the incredible sweet flavour of fresh picked peas from June to August. All they need is support for their stems – simply erect some chicken wire or netting between supports at each end of the row. You’ll be amazed at how good fresh peas taste – and the more that you pick them, the more they produce.
Runner Beans- sow April to July, harvest 2 months after.
Runner beans are climbers so give them plenty of space and train them onto wires or a plant support frame. Keep them well watered and they will reward you with a constant supply in summer. Regular picking is essential.
There are many more to have fun and experiment with.
Enjoying Plants in Your Home without the Expense
Not everyone has a garden but it is still possible to do some of these suggestions using empty household items on a window sill, for example, cutting the bottom off an empty juice bottle, turn it upside down and use as a cloche for small individual cuttings, you can buy grow bags to sow tomato plants straight into it (but this can take up a bit of room-1 metre).
Chilli’s also grow really well in a pot on the window sill and look nice. If you visit the bargain basement section of a garden centre or supermarket for ‘past their best plants’ marked down in price, you take them home and nurture them back to life or keep safe for flowering until next year.
Propagating plants is also a fun and cheap way to fill your home with lovely new plants. It is easy to propagate plants you already have at home. You can take clean ‘cuttings’ of stems to create many more plants. Cuttings need roots before they’ll take and exist by themselves, so if there are no roots at the initial stages you need to encourage the cutting to grow some. This is done either by planting up the cutting directly in potting compost or in something like a small container, vase or you can use a glass with just water that you change and refresh every few weeks.
Other Ideas for Your Garden or Plant Area
Perhaps there is an area of your garden that would suit as a place of meditation. Plants help to create a positive, calming mood, setting the perfect scene for practising mindfulness. If you do this outside you may find it easier to relax and connect with nature, or you can chose an area of your home with some nice plants. Beautifying your indoor space with plants makes a soothing atmosphere and contributes to well-being and comfort. The indoor air quality also is much better due to plants ability to pull in stale air and breath out fresh oxygen.
Mindfulness is an evidence-based approach to prevent recurrent depression, and also has a growing evidence base for it’s usefulness in helping people with anxiety or struggling with physical health problems. Find out more about our mindfulness book, Slow Down and Be here.
Planning what to grow and then seeing your designs come to a successful fruition is confidence-building and so satisfying. So go on, make a plan- maybe you could use our Activity Planner to get going, and in a few weeks time you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labour.
For more free worksheets to help you visit HERE
Or try our 10 Things You Can Do to Feel Happier Straight Away– simple practical advice and you’ll be happier, fitter, and maybe even slimmer soon. What’s more you’ll start to appreciate the world and be able to see the positive side of life everyday.
Happy planting! The LLTTF Team.