For many urbanites, nature can take a back seat. It's easy to forget the ancient relationship humans share with the natural world in the hustle and bustle of city life.
COVID-19 has required many of us to slow down, disrupting our daily patterns. The restrictions have provided more time at home, and a resurgence of interest in traditional activities like baking and crafts (remember the flour shortages?). A less publicised shortage was lavender, a tell-tale sign of gardening's growing popularity.
Spending time in parks and gardens is proven to be beneficial to our moods, and this is needed more than ever amidst the uncertainty of a global pandemic. We know that watching nature grow and change is healing: “in this challenging time we’re more aware than ever of the importance of nature. The emergence of new life can be really uplifting," says Professor Beverley Glover, director of Cambridge University Botanical Garden.
Significant amounts of research link green space with wellbeing, and the use of nature and gardening for therapeutic purposes is not new. Therapeutic horticulture was used as early as 1300 in Irish monasteries where people with disabilities would cultivate plants. These practices have had a lasting impact and are still used today by our charity partner Thrive.
Gardening can do more than just brighten up your space: it offers a vast array of mental and physical health benefits.
So, why are plants so powerful? Here are just some of the reasons.
Potting, pruning, weeding and watering are all sources of exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
, tending to your garden for 1 hour can burn around 330 calories. Depending on your fitness level and age, gardening will help you develop or maintain good general fitness as well as strengthening muscles, bones and joints which are in natural rapid decline after 30 years of age
Gardening has even more impact for the over 60’s who, according to a study reported in the British Medical Journal
, can reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and death by as much as 30%.
Growing fruits, vegetables and herbs give you fresh, nutritious produce. Studies by the American Society for Horticultural Science
have also shown that when children take an active role in growing and preparing food they are more likely to try new nutritious ingredients, increasing their palate and promoting a well-balanced diet.
Mental Rest and Relaxation
Nature and green space play a substantial role in reducing stress levels as they allow the mind to initiate healing processes, gently stimulating the mind and reducing the stress hormone cortisol.
One experiment conducted by the Wageningen University and Research Center
in The Netherlands investigated the extent to which gardening helped to reduce stress when compared to indoor reading, and found that gardening won by a large stretch, reducing the volume of cortisol in the body.
Building a Sense of Community
In recent years, community gardening projects in parks, schools, churches, retirement communities, and allotments are becoming more popular.
Long waiting lists for allotments and social distancing measures make it difficult to access such projects but there are other options. There are lots of live classes on Instagram, and virtual communities on Facebook or WhatsApp, like our Plant Pack Tomato Club, where you can chat with other growers and follow along with each other’s progress.
These projects help people to establish new relationships, strengthen social networks and help to reduce loneliness. Through community gardening, it is easy to meet like-minded people, share experiences, be part of a team and work toward collective goals. As well as lifting the spirits, this has been proven to aid recovery from illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as found by the Universities of Tokyo and Exeter
Making the City Greener
The therapeutic benefits of green space and gardening are becoming increasingly well known. While green spaces can be limited in the city, they are a growing priority for town planners and developers who now consider it essential. A shining example of this is the London Environment Strategy
, which aims to make 50% of London is green by 2050, with a 10% increase in tree canopy cover.
Want to learn more? Check out our Instagram @plantpack__ for the latest info!