Why gardening can be good for your mental health

Spring scent to lift the spirits - daffodil Pacific Coast.

Spring scent to lift the spirits - daffodil Pacific Coast.

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It can only be a good thing that people are talking about mental illness and health – and gardening can really help.

It’s a subject in the news – Princes Harry and William opening up about their experiences after their mother’s death, the Heads Together charity and the recent BBC documentary, Mind over Marathon.

Easy-to-grow spring flowers like Anenome nemorosa and Pulmonaria lift the spirits.

Easy-to-grow spring flowers like Anenome nemorosa and Pulmonaria lift the spirits.

I’ve always admired Gardener’s World presenter Monty Don for talking about his bouts of depression, and how gardening has helped him to cope.

Mental health issues are estimated to affect a quarter of us at one time or another (I suspect this is vastly underreported), but services to help people are not always available.

Studies suggest that 30 minutes of gardening can have a positive effect on mental health and it has been argued that if ‘horticultural therapy’ was actually prescribed by GPs for mental health issues, substantial savings could be made to the NHS and therefore the economy.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to move or do anything with depression, let alone plan an agenda of creating a garden.

A cheery geranium on a windowsill - gardening without a garden.

A cheery geranium on a windowsill - gardening without a garden.

The best advice is take that vital step of stepping outside with no plan or agenda and start to potter on – don’t think about it, just focus on the simple task you’re doing.

The combined benefits of exercise, fresh air and fixing your attention on something other than your problems can lighten the load and lead to a good, healing proper night’s sleep.

Seedsman Thompson & Morgan is encouraging people to try gardening in a bid to improve their mental health.

The blog by Sonia Mermagen is really worth a read. Visit www.thompson-morgan.com/gardening-for-mental-health to find out more about how your mental health and well-being can be improved through gardening.

Divide bamboo like this Fargesia Pingwu if necessary.

Divide bamboo like this Fargesia Pingwu if necessary.

Make sure you make your voice heard on social media with the hashtags #headstogether and #itsoktotal

JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Harden off tender plants by leaving them outside for increasing periods of time, building up to overnight exposure for a fortnight, then plant in permanent places when the risk of frost has passed.

Thin out direct sowings of hardy annuals and vegetables, in two or three stages at fortnightly intervals.

Remove faded wallflowers and spring bedding, to make space for summer plantings.

Divide clumps of herbaceous perennials. Bamboos and clumps of bulbs or rhizomes can be divided in the same way.

Cutting back clumps of spring-flowering perennials such as Pulmonaria and Doronicum can encourage a fresh flush of foliage.

Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils after flowering. Deadhead tulips and daffodils. Apply a liquid fertiliser to bulbs after they have flowered, to encourage a good show next year. Allow foliage to die down naturally.

Inspect lilies for red lily beetles – they’re extremely destructive and active now.

Protect carrots with insect-proof mesh to prevent carrot root fly.

Liquid feed fruit trees growing in pots with a balanced feed every fortnight.

GET IN TOUCH

For more on these topics, plus cook what you grow, traditional recipes, North East information, environmental news and more, log on to www.mandycanudigit.com (now smartphone friendly), www.sunderlandecho.com/gardening, follow me on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like me on Facebook at Mandycanudigit