Gardening for Health

Gardening is one of the country’s favourite pass times. Sometimes it’s a group activity, often in can be in the quietness of ones own company.

It’s very nature, active, outdoors, away from life’s usual stresses is therapeutic. Many members within the Men’s Shed movement are active gardeners, some like me, were professional gardeners. I have always been keen to share the message of the benefits of contact with nature. It could be rock climbing, it could be surfing. I am much less up supple now for those things. It could, like me still be gardening.

I would like to start an occasional feature in the magazine about gardening. What it’s benefits are, what it means to us and our families. I welcome contributions, thoughts and ideas. Contact me in the first instance on: colin.porter@ukmsa.org.uk

To start us off we have a description of the gardening activities of one of our members, Paul Egerton of the Milton Keynes Men’s Shed.

Case Study – Paul Egerton – Volunteer Ambassador for Buckinghamshire

I have been keen on gardening ever since I was a young lad when my parents gave me a patch of garden of my own, but as I have got older, I find that the hobby offers me the opportunity of escaping life’s pressures and just ‘chilling out’ doing something that I enjoy.  As a Father of 18 year old boy/girl twins, I find their behaviour can be somewhat challenging at times which whilst perfectly normal, is a situation that many similar parents find themselves in. Often, folk find this behaviour can become somewhat stressful to the extent that if I did not have an outlet to relieve my stress and and anxiety that this can, on occasions cause, I would probably find myself beating a path to my GP’s door for help with probable prescription medication the result; so far in my life, I have avoided this need as gardening facilitates a considerable stress busting process as its marvellous how by just thrusting the spade into the ground and turning over the soil removes any bad vibes that you might have. Far better to use immersive occupations than resort to medication!

Gardening is a year-round occupation as there is always something to do.  My gardening year is focussed on delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to the household table, often at a time when they become expensive or are a rarity in the shops.  In the spring we sow seeds and bring forth new plants. In the summer we swear and curse that the heavens do not bring us enough water to avoid regular trips to the garden tap. In autumn we harvest what we have grown, rejuvenate the soil and sow/plant over-wintering seeds/crops.  And lastly, in winter we plant bare-rooted new stock or take considerable time mulling over seed catalogues deciding what we are going to grow for the next season before placing our order and waiting expectantly for them to arrive.

An hour spent in the back garden or on my allotment is often all that is needed to restore my good humour and equilibrium. I can mutter away to myself and nobody will hear or if they do, I couldn’t care less… I’d rather turn over the soil than take a pill and I know that in the process, I’m getting gentle exercise which keeps me sound in mind and body. Gardening has also enabled me to channel my enthusiasm to help others as besides being a UK Men’s Sheds Association Ambassador, four years ago, I became Chairman of a local Gardening and Allotment Association whose slogan is “Gardeners helping Gardeners”; and I’m often to be found either serving behind the sales hut counter at the weekend or bagging up loose fertiliser or just replenishing shelf items. I have also taken my interest further by membership of the Henry Doubleday Research Association whose working title is Garden Organic. Garden Organic run and maintain a Heritage Seed Library containing varieties which can no longer be found in any seed catalogue due to the cost of seed registration or purely because it fell out of popularity. As a seed guardian, I grow out varieties of tomatoes, peas and beans purely to collect the seed, retain enough for my own purposes and send the surplus back to Garden Organic to bulk up their seed store and ensure the gene pool is maintained.

So you can see, not only does gardening improve your personal mental health, it can also lead to involvement in other areas of society which brings with it long-lasting friendships and contact with like-minded people. It has much to commend – Colin Porter



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