Don’t stop gardening

Children taking part in the WOWS Kids Fiji gardening program. Picture: VISHAAL KUMAR/FILE

AS you begin growing your garden don’t expect too much because unpredictable weather does have an impact – especially on the kind of veggies you hope to grow.

Incredibly so, it is possible depending on location and type of garden plots.

From my experience raised-plots are good, coupled with a greenhouse netting cover to protect seedlings from the heavy rain is advisable.

But remember, Fiji’s recent outburst to venture into ‘planting your own food initiative’ had nothing to do with rainy weather breaking the hearts of newbie vegetable gardeners.

More so, a virus, now officially stamped as an act of God, crippling our developing economy.

Massive job losses countrywide, pay-cuts and reduced hours give nothing more than a bleak future.

In my view, I push on through by way of ‘act of man’- which is to plant my own to ease the burden during these trying times because I know for sure my God is good.

But there’s nothing like the thrill of gardening that pushes back obstacles faced and eventually that rhythm begins – there’s just no stopping me.

Even when jokes thrown by friends over my fence tease ‘farmer boy’, I just laugh back.

That difference of planting in plain sight as to isolated farmland in the interior does give me a sense of being watched because its new in my neighbourhood, but the reality of having a garden is more than what meets the eye if you try it out.

I can’t say how much I’ve saved so far from growing cabbages, but I say I have seedlings readily grown to replace the plants I harvest.

From mid-February this year, the usual four to five bundles of cabbages I buy a week have reduced to zero.

I must admit there were times when I needed to buy cabbages but I chose to wait a little longer for my garden where cabbages are bigger, cleaner and I know exactly what I’m eating.

A neighbour tells me he planted cabbage seeds and caught that ‘happy feeling’ seeing it growing just behind his house on a hill. But a heavy downpour washed it all away into a nearby creek.

He didn’t start it again afterwards. Maybe digging a drain would have helped.

So read more about why gardening inspires people and remember don’t stop growing.

Stress relief

A recent study in the Netherlands suggests gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterwards, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Health.com: Job killing you? types of work-related stress Humans have a finite capacity for the kind of directed attention required by cell phones and email and the like, Taylor says, and when that capacity gets used up we tend to become irritable, error-prone, distractible, and stressed out. Fortunately this “attention fatigue” appears to be reversible. Following a theory first suggested by University of Michigan researchers in the 1980s, Taylor and other experts have argued that we can replenish ourselves by engaging in “involuntary attention,” an effortless form of attention that we use to enjoy nature. Trading your BlackBerry for blackberry bushes is an excellent way to fight stress and attention fatigue, Taylor says, as the rhythms of the natural environment and the repetitive, soothing nature of many gardening tasks are all sources of effortless attention. Health.com: How to stop multitasking and lower stress

Better mental health

The effortless attention of gardening may even help improve depression symptoms. In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood or “bipolar II disorder” spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants
had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended. Health.com: Boost your mood naturally Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University
of Colorado at Boulder, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria
commonly found in soil, and has found they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin
in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting
antidepressant drugs do.

Exercise

Gardening gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine — and it also gets your blood moving. “There are lots of different movements in gardening, so you get some exercise benefits out of it as well,” says William Maynard, the community garden program co-ordinator for the City of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Health.com: 10 exercises for people in pain As a pleasurable and goal-oriented outdoor
activity, gardening has another advantage over other forms of exercise: People are more likely to
stick with it and do it often. “It’s an exercise that has a context, that reinforces the limberness of your limbs and the use of your hands. You’ve got a motivation for why you want to grip. You’re not just gripping a ball, you want to pull a weed says Katherine Brown, the executive director of the Southside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that supports community gardens and other urban agriculture.”

Brain health

Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly  had a 36 per cent and 47 per cent lower risk
of dementia than non-gardeners, even when arrange of other health factors were taken into account.
And for people who are already experiencing a mental decline, even just walking in a garden may
be therapeutic. Many residential homes for people with dementia now have “wander” or “memory”
gardens on their grounds, so that residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems
can walk through them without getting lost. The sights smell, and sounds of the garden are
said to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

Nutrition

The food you grow yourself is the freshest food you can eat. And because home gardens are fi lled with fruits and vegetables, it’s also among the healthiest food you can eat. Studies of after-school gardening programs suggest that kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. And they’re a lot more
adventurous about giving new foods a try, says Anne Palmer, who studies food environments as
the program director of Eating for the Future, a  program based at the Johns Hopkins School of
Public Health Center for a Livable Future, in Baltimore.

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