Whole in the Garden

“Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.”

Words from Sigmund Freud, unlikely patron of horticulture, set the tone for Anne Randle’s lecture on “Gardening for the Mind, Body and Spirit” at the recent Holistic Columbus Expo. Anne is an Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent with experience in urban and traditional farming.

Dew Abides Garden for Mind Body and Spirit

Here’s some of the powerful data she shared on the positive impacts of gardening, in case you’re looking for an excuse to skip Great Aunt Ruby’s birthday party to enjoy a little yardwork instead:

  • A 20-year study with 13,000 participants found gardening reduces the risk of dementia.
  • Another study showed dementia patients who spent six weeks gardening had increased interaction, concentration, sleep, memory, sense of well being and functional level.
  • Vegetable gardeners consume more fruits and vegetables, as do their spouses and children.
  • Gardeners, on average, meet the 2.5 hours of weekly physical activity recommended by the CDC.
  • Older gardeners have increased hand strength, dexterity and balance.
  • Gardeners get more vitamin D — even more than those who engage in other outdoor sports like cycling and running.
  • Playing in dirt exposes gardeners to Mycobacterium vaccaewhich increases serotonin levels, elevating mood and decreasing anxiety.

Most importantly, gardening can create a profound sense of community, as Anne discovered during her work establishing a church’s vegetable garden. Their initial planting included all the traditional summer fare like tomatoes and corn, but when Anne went back to check on their progress, she was surprised to find a field of thriving cucumber vines.

Turns out, those first plants succumbed to disease and drought, but someone’s donation of a 100-pound bag of cucumber seed put them back in the field. Before long, they had grown literally thousands of pounds of cucumbers, which they shared with residents in the surrounding neighborhood and well beyond.

Some might choose to look at an endless sea of cukes as a failure, but the church was thrilled with the relationships they cultivated that lasted long after summer’s end.

And that’s the true power of gardening.

If you’re in the Columbus, Georgia area, check out the “Edible Fall Gardening” workshop on Sept. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., co-sponsored by the Muscogee and Russell County Extension Offices. Registration is $10, which includes lunch.

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