October 20 is Garden Day in South Africa. We’re celebrating … and so should you.
Spending regular time in the garden has undisputed health advantages, and there’s scientific evidence to back up that claim.
According to Professor Nox Makunga, a plant scientist at the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University, the next time you’re feeling under the weather, down in the dumps or stressed out, don’t reach for a packet of pills – grab your garden fork instead. ‘There are dozens of studies globally that have looked into how gardening affects your health and there’s only one conclusion … gardening is incredibly good for you.’
Regular gentle activities such as community gardening prevent diseases like diabetes and dementia, and tackle issues like isolation. But if you think gardening is only for old folk who’ve retired and have loads of time on their well-worn hands, think again. Millennials find peace in plants too.
Here are some suggestions and facts that may – hell, should – encourage you to get outdoors and start digging.
• Replace screens with greens for lifelong genes. Every hour spent in front of a TV screen shortens your life by 21 minutes, whereas every hour spent gardening lengthens it.
• Budding brains. School gardening clubs teach children fine motor skills through tasks such as transplanting seedlings and tying up tomatoes. If there’s no garden club at school, spend time with your children in the garden at home.
• Green finger gains. Gardening gets us off our couches and increases physical health by an average of 33 per cent – which also contributes to a decreased rate of heart disease and diabetes. Half an hour pushing a lawnmower burns 150 calories, equivalent to a moderate session in the gym…and you’ll never have to worry about renewing your membership!
• Couples who garden together, stay together. Yes, planting partners report that they’re far more patient with each other.
• Dig in. The secret of gardeners’ happiness could well lie in the soil. Mice show increased levels of serotonin – the ‘happiness hormone’ – when exposed to soil bacteria.
• Planting for productivity. Office workers who have houseplants on their desks are 15 per cent more productive than those who don’t.
So what are you waiting for? Ready. Steady. Grow!