By J’Nel Wright, managing editor
I’m what you call a gardener groupie. Every spring, I casually peer over Mr. Hill’s fence (the neighborhood’s version of Mr. Green Jeans) to glean some insight on how to encourage my tomato and flowering plants to choose life. The struggle continues. But what skills I lack in growing vegetables tend to sprout in my herb garden. Hey, I love home-grown produce as much as the next guy. Fortunately, Farmer Hill shares his bounty. But when it comes to Pineapple Sage, Mint, Lemon Thyme, and Rose Hips — now we’re cooking.
There is something organically satisfying about growing herbs. And now studies show that gardening is good for your health. The National Institutes of Health found that activities like gardening reduce the likelihood of inadequate Vitamin D. We rely on vitamin D to maintain healthy bones and teeth. And it helps boost the immune system, regulate the nervous system and insulin levels, and improves brain function.
The physical benefits are evident, but with stress being one of the leading causes of chronic illness, the positive impact gardening has on mental health is worth noting as well. “Stress is a risk factor for a variety of diseases,” said Sarah Hilton, a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital. “Gardening is a common activity, especially among the elderly, that helps reduce stress.”
So with the welcome arrival of warmer weather, here are five reasons why the idea of planting an herb gardening just may grow on you.
1. It’s Great Exercise.
Just one hour of digging is equivalent to a session of moderate cardiovascular exercise, which means tiptoeing through the tulips can burn over 300 calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.” For best results, schedule gardening time earlier in the day or the cool evening hours to avoid the risk of sun exposure.
Related link: Karen England Loves Herbs, And You Should Too
2. Herbs Grow Quickly.
Why herbs? Why not marigolds or roses? Roses and other flowering plants are great additions to any garden, but herbs are popular because they grow quickly. And many styles are resilient and forgiving when exposed to “remedial” gardening skills. For example, oregano and parsley will start sprouting within a month. And the more they are cut, the more they grow back.
Related link: Cooking With Fresh Herbs
3. It Clears Your Head.
Perhaps it’s the sensation of cool dirt between the fingers or the warmth of the sun on your face, but the practice of caring for a garden spot or containers of beloved plants does wonders for undoing a stressful day. “For many, the peacefulness associated with gardening comes not from its social aspect, but the opposite. It enables us to escape from other people,” says Sarah Rayner. “Tending to plants allows us to tap into the carefree part of ourselves with no deadlines, mortgage or annoying colleagues to worry about.” As a bonus, be sure to clip a sprig or two of lavender or lemon balm for a soothing cup of herbal tea; a deliciously rewarding treat after spending a mind-clearing moment in your garden.
4. Creates a Sense of Purpose and Accomplishment.
Your garden needs you every day. And that sense of purpose can help stave off feelings of anxiety and depression, especially for seniors. “Depression in senior citizens is one of the most under-recognized and under-treated medical illnesses,” says Marlis Powers. “In the general population, 12 percent of deaths are attributed to suicide. That statistic rises to 16 percent for those aged 65 and older.” One of the advantages of gardening is its versatility. For people who experience limited mobility or live in a smaller space, gardening, particularly an herb garden, can adapt to the gardener’s ability and available resources.
The growing interest in organic gardening has fostered trends in community gardens. And that is an added boost for seniors and others who may feel isolated. “After retirement, many people struggle with fewer socialization opportunities, and community gardens can be a fun way to engage with others while providing benefits to neighborhoods,” says Kim Hayes.
Related link: How To Arrange A Stunning Floral Arrangement In Minutes
5. You Reap the Rewards.
Much like homegrown tomatoes taste fresher than the store, or the juicy sweetness of a fresh-picked raspberry makes one’s heart skip a beat, harvesting fresh herbs for a favorite recipe is a satisfying reward.
“I like to make tea from the herbs and edible flowers that grow in my garden,” says Karen England, a long-time “herbalogist,” blogger, and owner of Edgehill Herb Farm. “It’s something only home gardeners can make.” One of her favorite tea blends incorporates Sweet Lavender, French Lavender, rosemary, Sweet Bay, calendula, basil, Kaffir Lime Leaves, mint, Cleveland Sage, nasturtium, and a variety of roses and rose hips. Good luck finding that blend on a restaurant menu.
So if you are looking for a new activity that will get encourage a day outdoors, improve both physical and mental health, and will fill your basket with delicious delights of the season, try herb gardening. You may plant a seed for a hobby you can never outgrow.
This article was originally published by Silversage Magazine.