Gardening is a pleasurable and relaxing activity and is the perfect antidote to our technology filled, stressful lives. There are numerous benefits to the human body, mind and soul and many ways to get involved in gardening in the community as Colosoul explores.
Gardening is a great activity for the mind, body and soul and to enhance connection with yourself and the earth. In a day and age where most of us are consumed by technology and spend a majority of our time inside soulless and corporatized buildings and offices, the garden is a juxtaposition of beauty and peace.
Gardening has proven to be relaxing and a great stress buster, with Gillian Aldrich a magazine editor from the U.S describing the feeling, “When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful,” (1) Gardening can also help connect people to their primal state and man’s need to be immersed in nature. It can also be a form of exercise, particularly for those who have difficulty doing more vigorous exercise, healing and immunity as the outdoors, sun and plants have a positive effect on the body (2).
Gardening can also improve your mental health. A study in Norway of people diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood and bipolar II disorder made them garden, tending to flowers and vegetables six hours per week. After three months half of the participants had a large improvement in their symptoms. This has likely come about due to the presence of Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, that boosts the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain and can boost human immunity (1). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for a verity of physiological and physical functions, but is said to contribute to normal mood balance and reduce the contraction of depression and other mental illnesses (3).
In article quote highlighted due to its prominence. ‘The gardens give public housing tenants access to land that they use to grow their own food and the ability to connect with their culture through the food they grow,…..Although many don’t speak English, they can speak the language of food, cooking and gardening.’ (6).
You don’t have to have a massive backyard or perfectly manicured garden to enjoy the benefits. In fact many people with smaller yard spaces, balconies and apartment dwellers can enjoy the benefits gardening brings. There are many community gardens out there that cultivate a renewed sense of community. The Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network is a great resource linking people interested in city farming, community gardening and community farm systems around Australia. They provide up to date maps of community gardens across Australia and steps for starting a garden (4).
Cultivating Community works with low income and diverse communities to create fair, secure and resilient food systems. They do this through establishing community food gardens for residents to grow food in public housing settings, and undertaking other community food projects (5). Cultivating Community project manager Sharelle Polack, praised public housing gardens asserting, ‘The gardens give public housing tenants access to land that they use to grow their own food and the ability to connect with their culture through the food they grow,…..Although many don’t speak English, they can speak the language of food, cooking and gardening.’ (6).
Veg Out, a community garden in gentrified, trendy St Kilda in Melbourne exemplifies itself as an example for other community gardens and for those wanting to establish a successful garden. It is a financially independent garden on local council land and has over 140 plots where members, friends, families and community groups enjoy getting their hands dirty (6). It has thrived despite being in a commercial/ tourist precinct that has risks of being developed into a commercial project. The garden includes plots where can grow their own vegetables and herbs, flowers, artwork and animals. The garden is very welcoming to all people, including those with a lack of gardening experience (7).
Words by Simon Chitre