The Deeper Roots of Gardening

This time of year is beautiful to me; I know that sunshine and warm days are right around the corner and it makes the chilly and murky days more bearable. I find myself coming out of hibernation and becoming more active around my house – cleaning, exercising, planning my garden for the year. This last weekend I dug out supplies for my garden and I felt this sense of calm wash over me knowing what was to come. If you know what I am talking about, you probably have gardened before. If you don’t, let me fill you in on some of the amazing things I have learned in the last two years of vermicomposting and tower gardening.

  • Did you know that there is a beneficial bacteria in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae, which studies have linked  to increased serotonin production[1]? (Serotonin is one of our body’s “happy” chemicals.) So, if you have been struggling with feelings of depression lately, taking up gardening as a hobby might just have an impact on improving your mental health, according to this study.
  • Gardening exposes us to our five senses. This can be an incredibly calming activity because while gardening our senses of touch, smell, hearing, sight, and even taste are exercised—depending on what you grow! Using all of our senses can help calm our bodies and minds because we are keeping the sensory input parts of our body busy with relaxing stimuli.
  • Gardening can be a fun and economical way to grow your own food. This can be an activity for the whole family! From starting seeds, putting them in the ground, watering them, and finally harvesting them, individuals of nearly all ages can get involved in the process. Every year I try to challenge myself to grow something new to expose myself to eating new things and mix up my meals. Having fresh vegetables right outside my door makes it really easy to make healthy meals or add new flares to food with fresh herbs. We know that eating healthy foods has a direct correlation to our mental health[2].
  • Gardening keeps us active. Knowing my seeds need tending to gets me up off the couch to check on my seedlings. Once they move outside I get even more activity in, and as an added bonus, more vitamin D from sunshine —another natural mood-boosting source.
  • Not all seeds are created equal. Some seeds like to be nursed inside before going in the ground, others want to be planted straight into the dirt. Some seeds need to be soaked for a few hours to a day before being planted, others are okay to be put into the soil directly. Some seeds grow best at different times of the year because climate changes throughout the year. If you want to know more about when you should start your seeds and how they like to be planted, check out this resource here: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html. Farmer’s Almanac also has a lot of great growing and planting resources, and as a tip for seed starting and planting—they are projecting our last spring frost as May 7th this year.

Did you know that the Eau Claire Public Library has a Seed Library? This is one of those items that you do not have to return – just take what you can use or share. Starting Monday, April 4th feel free to swing by our Seed Library and take a peek at the amazing selection of vegetables and herbs that have generously been donated by Down to Earth Garden Center and the Eau Claire Garden Club. Now, get out there, get your hands dirty, and you might just notice a boost in your mental health. So, what are you looking forward to growing this year?

[1]Effects of Immunization With the Soil-Derived Bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae on Stress Coping Behaviors and Cognitive Performance in a “Two Hit” Stressor Model https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2020.524833/full

[2]Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review https://www.mdpi.com/607868

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