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Growth and gardening

As grocery prices continue to rise and gas prices show little sign of returning to the under $5/gallon neighborhood any time soon, now is the perfect time to consider a garden.

While planting experts might discourage the late planting, the act might prove to be just as good for the mind as the body.

Be it the simplicity of putting ones hands in dirt, cultivating something from a seed or starter to a full grown plant or the serenity of watering each day; gardening does indeed offer mental health benefits.

Getting outside in the summer months can look different for every individual. Spending time outside tending to a garden is good for both the body and the mind. Research has shown that there are varying ways in which this has proven to be true.

Gardening has a way of teaching one a bit about acceptance, as well as imperfection. Not everything will grow. Bugs, birds or bunnies may get to a plant and leave little for harvest. The soil may not be right, resulting in produce which is less than favorable in flavor. The plant may get too much sun, shade or water.

Like life, as many things can go wrong in a garden as can go right, that’s part of the fun, the learning. Every gardener will have problems and as a result will learn a bit more for future plantings. As one embraces their garden the notion of “perfection” becomes more of a novelty than a goal. Each and every plant individual to itself.

The connection to the earth brought through gardening is also valuable. It’s more than a relationship with other people. Gardening is a connection to the ground which you’re tending. From the moment our hands are placed in the soil, to the day of harvest there is both a connection as well as a commitment to that seedling or plant.

The beauty of this relationship is the one it can foster with other people as well. Gardeners, like most other hobbyists, love to “talk shop.” Maintaining a garden opens your world to a whole other group of strangers. Whether it be through stories of oversized zucchini, pride in a bounty 

of tomatoes or simply talking shop of what’s worked and what hasn’t. Through sharing of lessons and a passion we are opening ourselves to greater human connection.

Not to be overlooked, the health benefits of gardening are equally important. The physical exercise of moving your body is not just good for you physically. Moving the body regularly is good for your mood and reduces anxiety. Daily work in the garden is a great substitute for taking a pass on going to the gym. Movement in the 

garden is varied which makes it easier on the body, tending to result in less injury than structured exercise.

It has also been known to reduce stress as the elements of nature surround you.

And speaking of reducing stress, the harvest of healthy food will also attribute to that as your grocery bill will be lower as your harvest grows. Growing your own produce not only encourages healthier eating, but a more “Mediterranean” diet which is good for many elements of one’s health. Studies have shown that cholesterol, blood pressure and overall heart health benefit from this type of diet.

So whether you have a large stretch of land, a vacant plot in your urban backyard or a corner of your patio, digging into the dirt this summer will yield great rewards. Not only may it fatten your wallet and loosen your belt, it may also clear your mind.