Today is World Mental Health Day and there’s stacks of info out there about the benefits gardening can have on your wellbeing.
I wrote this blog a while ago, about how gardening makes me feel free and how it has helped me, when I’m feeling stressed and worried about stuff and it’s just as relevant today.
Learn, Inspire, Grow
At first when I was a toddler – gardening was about getting dirty and wet – and I was really good at that! At the age of 5, I was poorly for quite a while and found that the fresh air and being surrounded by nature helped me feel better. At the same time I started to get involved in gardening at school and home, planting seeds and growing food and it gave me that real connection with nature.
Gardening is really important in schools as it’s a good way of teaching kids where their food comes from. It’s nice for us kids to put a seed in a pot, watch the seedling grow, then harvest it, cook it and eat it #boom! It also improves our health, the air is fresher, it’s good exercise, like when you’re digging, lifting and moving around the garden, it’s a very active thing to do and even when it’s raining it makes you feel like dancing!
There’s something special about growing your own; two of my favourites are peas and potatoes. Peas are great, you watch them grow, pick ‘em, eat ‘em and the pods can go on the compost heap – it’s win, win. I love the idea that you don’t know what you’re going to get with potatoes, it’s like a pick ‘n’ mix, a massive potato, a tiny little potato!
When I’ve got an issue in life that’s stressing me out, gardening makes me feel calm and relaxed. I’ll go outside and it really clears my mind. It almost makes you forget about everything that’s bad in life and helps you escape any worries that you might have. It helps your mind and other things; the gardening environment comes in to your brain and takes all the worries away, it takes you to a different world. When your brain is crowded with problems, you can use all your senses, lift your arms and stand there forever. If I’m stressed with my college work, tests and assignments, I’ll go outside, go for a walk, go into the garden and immediately the flowers, the trees, the plants make me feel relaxed and it clears my mind.
It’s a good way to bring you together as a family too, like when me and my Dad are in the garden, I harvest the produce and take it to my mum in the kitchen, she cooks it, we all eat it and somehow it tastes better, it becomes a team effort.
Gardening can help with different subjects; such as when you’re laying out a plot, it helps you with planning skills. You can be creative and use it for art lessons or in biology you learn all about photosynthesis. And for English, great poets and authors were influenced by the countryside, like Beatrix Potter – she talked all about Peter Rabbit in the garden!
I was 8 and at primary school when I won the RHS Young School Gardener of the Year. Now I’m 16 and at college, I’m becoming more independent and seeing gardening as a life skill and future job. Gardening and cooking food are my first steps into education and employment and it’s providing me with the skills I need to succeed in life.
Here’s my gardening message…..
To kids that haven’t tried gardening and don’t think it’s cool, I say, give it a try. As I said, there’s nothing better than growing food like peas, but you can always try some wicked plants, such as carnivorous plants that feast on flies or plants that grow in the air, I’m not joking, air plants don’t need soil. There are plants that make you feel better (herbal) and there’s always that sense of achievement when you dig up that potato that you’ve grown yourself and eat it. You won’t know ’til you try it!
To head teachers and teachers I say get kids involved ‘cos it can help kids, who really struggle in the classroom. Being out in the fresh air really helps and there’s different teaching opportunities that can relate to most subjects; check out the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s website for more info
To parents I say encourage your kids to get involved in the garden or even grow a few things on the window bottom, it’s a good family thing to do together
and to community growing groups it’s a good way of bringing people together; I’ve volunteered with Operation Farm since I was 4 and done some great things, I’ve really enjoyed every minute.
For more info on the benefits of gardening on our mental health and wellbeing check out the RHS
Personally, I don’t know where I’d be without gardening!