I have known it a long time, often discussed my feelings with my wife, family and friends and tried to influence those around me. Happily I feel can now report it is as it is ‘official’ – gardening is good for you whatever your age and it has assisted many people who have been looking for a healthier lifestyle and urgently required therapeutic activity - gardening or even a choice of a career in horticulture. More and more older people volunteer to work in gardens.
I admit to there being times when I have overdone it. My knees letting me know they are there, my hands tingling from clutching the odd nettle, thorns finding a home where they have no right to be. All this pales into insignificance compared to the feeling of well-being that comes over me after I have spent a couple of hours in the garden following too many hours on the dreaded digital devices.
Like many people I spend too long in front of a computer screen, could do with losing a little weight and do not sleep particularly well, but the fresh air time spent in my garden makes an enormous difference to how I feel, act and sleep.
It is not just the physical work of digging and hoeing, it is the mental ‘switch-off’ time that is all encompassing. Stress and worries vanish replaced by a feeling of wonderment and joy as I discover a new shoot or even an unexpected flower – all is not lost there is hope of good things to come.
I am fortunate to have a front garden of which I am rather proud. Not only does it give me great pleasure, there are many passers-by who stop to look at it and have a chat. Like wise I have enjoyed having a chat to gardeners I walk past, I suspect many gardeners may be elderly, possibly living on their own and I hope that their day is cheered. Try spending more time in your front garden, whatever the size. Place some medium sized containers on the spare paving or hard surface. With just a few colourful plants what a huge difference if there is some non parking space. Try a hanging basket near the front door so it’s convenient to water; maybe there’s room for a long container on a window ledge. I enjoyed the BBC UK Gardeners World (Fri 8.30 pm ) where one presenter renovates a different urban front garden every week with a very pleased house resident astonished at what a couple of hours clearing some weeds and planting can achieve.
If you try spending more time in your front garden, just see how many people, perhaps neighbours, perhaps their children, often strangers, slow down even stop to say hello and ask a question. It often leads to a friendly chat which is good for you, good for the passer by and really good for the ‘feel good factor’.
Recently there has been a major meeting at the RHS, Chaired by their Head of Science, Dr Alistair Griffiths, at which it was agreed that there is overwhelming proof that plants – nature – horticulture – gardens – allotments have a very considerable impact on public health. As £50 billion is spent on public health by the NHS in the UK on obesity and heart disease can you imagine the help a healthier lifestyle would give to the overstretched health budget.
There is growing evidence that physical and mental health can benefit very considerably from time spent outdoors in a garden. Gardening is also having dramatic results in other areas such as prison reform where inmates have found a stability and focus, and indeed winning prizes, from dedicated work making prison gardens a good place to find peace, solace and time for reflection.
In an increasingly busy, urbanised and industrial world I predict that gardens, horticulture and growing will become a very big work life balance factor arising from the desire of people (as well as from the medical profession) in seeking to improve our health and as an escape from an increasingly stressful life style.
Look for, and I am sure you will find that sense of peace in the many beautiful gardens around us, whatever size they may be.