Garden psychology – you know it makes sense

I have read a lot about the benefits of gardening. It’s everywhere, on TV and all over the Internet. Oh yawn, not another over-blown rant about about the stress-busting properties that gardening gives us?
If it was so good everyone would be turning the central reservations of motorways into fabulous gardens. Oh, ye of little faith. I’m not a psychologist, I’m a gardener, and so I’ve put together my own  view though my own experience. And by that I don’t mean just sitting in the garden drinking wine, I mean the actual toil.

Nurture and nourishment.
It is a basic human characteristic to nurture. Us, our friends and family, our animals and our plants all love a bit of nurturing. Throw in spot of cherishing too. It isn’t all about just delivering food and water, or keeping things clean to ward off diseases. It is about observing, getting information back, a subtle exchange of what’s needed and how much.

I recently adopted a rescue cat and wanted to give her a home that she’ll thrive in. Immediately she was different. So I completely focused on her needs as I don’t speak cat and she doesn’t speak English. I somehow found out what she likes to eat, that she likes to drink from the tap, what sort of play she likes etc. It was all done by ‘feel’, observation and learning. She was checking me out too and somehow slotted into my routine and I hers.

Cougar getting friendly with the herb rack
Cougar getting friendly with the herb rack

I didn’t think about myself for a second while this was happening and I noticed that all the other problems melted away from my thoughts. Distraction therapy and it worked a treat. Same with gardening.

You get a lot out of nurturing and your brain plays tricks on you. I’m not kidding! When you are trudging up to the greenhouse in the pouring rain, you are not seeing the black plastic soil-filled cells for what they are today. You are seeing in your minds eye the future. The host of peppers or army of tomatoes is what you see. A picture of the future. So vivid, so captivating, so ravishing, you want it so badly this goal, this yearning for a successful crop. It’s a picture in your brain, it doesn’t actually exist. Now that is crazy. But its survival, its vision, its food and nourishment. You’ve blotted out the rainy present with the future. And no one, bye the way, has mentioned the past.

The future.
A while ago I didn’t think I had a future. Unsuccessful relationships, a serious accident, countless surgeries, and redundancy left me thinking that I’ll just live for today. All those sayings running through my head until I crashed headlong into a bout of post traumatic depression.

During the recovery I rediscovered the ‘future’ thing. The ‘planning’ thing too. Future. Planning, and ‘looking-forward’. Nurturing and ‘growing’, resulting in ‘reward’ and ‘achievement’. One leading to another in a cycle, the cycle of time and of goals, an end goal. To plan and grow food to thrive, to be nourished, and healthy. All these things are there for not only your basic human survival, but go towards making you happy. There are a lot of boxes being ticked here.

Beauty and aesthetics.
We go on holidays to look at, experience and eat beautiful (and different) things. It makes us feel great looking at a lovely landscape and so you bring this to your own garden. You are on holiday in your own garden. And while you are creating a wonderful haven you are doing it in the ‘now’ and not stressing about something else. Don’t forget to explore your creativity too, fantastic.

Wonder of biology.
How did Mother Nature do that! That’s AMAZING! I didn’t really do it. I just watered it, evolution did it. But I chose to show it to you, in this setting, on this day, together with all these other plants that are complementing each other.

I chose to offer you a delight to your senses too. See those herbs, they smell good, taste good too. Touch the leaves, some are furry, some are glossy. Big, small and everything in between. Evolution made them that way, its incredible. While I’m watching I’m learning too, researching horticulture and exercising my brain. Looking up information in books and magazines and learning stuff.

Exercise and being outside.
Endorphins. You produced that when you exercised, that’s handy, what a bonus. The activity has helped your heart too and lowered the stress hormone cortisol. Then the benefits of vitamin D and B12. Read a brilliant blog below on vitamin depletion.

I remember commuting to work every day, walked to the station, head down, checking my phone. Sat in an air-conditioned office, surfed the Internet, drank coffee, breathed in fumes, pretty damn miserable. Then one day I forgot my phone. I looked at things, the people, and all the front gardens on my walk to the station. I noticed the season and the smell of early morning. I stood on the platform and looked up, all the way up to the sky. Nothing to block to the view, no office ceiling, or fluorescent lights, just endless, endless blue sky. I felt a sense that I was connecting to nature, and that I had missed out. I was standing on this little bit of the planet, albeit the station platform. I wasn’t having a religious moment, no, I’d seen the beauty of this little bit of planet just then, and wanted get involved with nature from then on.

So what have we learnt?
No fireworks here, no monumental revelations. For every moment you nurtured nature by feeding and seeing to its needs, you got a little bit of satisfaction. You have sown a seed and looked after it for a future. When you looked out onto your beautiful garden, your eyes smiled and you felt connected. By standing in your outdoor space, the space that you looked after, you own that. You might not have physically purchased the ground, but you own that piece of time, and the space that you made yours for that moment. You stand on the planet, in that space making nature your garden.

There’s pride and achievement, nurturing and planning. Feeding your body and feeding your love of the aesthetics. You tolerated too. Pests and diseases, or the plant that just didn’t turn out right. And you didn’t blame them or anyone else, you accepted and delt with it.
But last of all you are surprised. Surprised at the wonder of nature, at yourself that you stuck at it. And no tantrums, no wobblers, no blaming anyone else, its just there and it made you a better person.
I love my garden



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