When we focus on something bigger than ourselves, like the power of nature, we get out of our own heads and notice that everyday life can be amazing!!
Nature cures, not the physician.
Gardening is a positive habit, and is considered among the most effective natural health-inspiring remedies, just like exercising, or getting enough sleep, or being with your pet, and, although gardening will encourage and promote physical activity, in its self, when we structure our lives around healthy routines, and Learn What To Grow In A Garden, we have the opportunities to experience many more positive emotions, such as satisfaction, relaxation, joy, a longer healthier life, and a sense of accomplishment.
For example, there’s a secret for eternal youth, it’s called the “Blue Zones” according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. NIH said scientific exploration has shown some basic factors as being behind a long lifespan, which are a plant-based diet lighter on fatty meat and excess calories and heavier on plants; regular, low-intensity activity like healthy gardening; an investment in family and good relationships; a sense of faith; and purpose. The four locals recognized as blue zones are Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; and Okinawa, Japan. However, you can make your own “blue zone” in backyard garden.
Building a new, healthy habit can be difficult, and it normally takes at least 60 days to replace the old bad habit with the new healthy one. But, in terms of establishing a good habit of gardening, it becomes much easier, because successful gardening, requires a careful tending on a regular basis, and one is motivated to get out and take care of the tasks in the garden each and every day. Therefore, one is motivated and encouraged to receive the stress-reducing benefits associated with gardening on an ongoing basis.
It’s generally accepted that an outdoor lifestyle and moderate physical activity is linked to a longer and healthier life, and gardening is an easy way to accomplish both. Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits, and can also be a very enjoyable activity and rewarding at the same time. Individuals with disabilities, seniors and children, can find it especially rewarding to spend time in a garden tending plants and growing their own food.
With some thought and planning, you can create an interesting, productive, and pleasant space that can be used as an healthy, nutrient-rich, edible garden. One of our favorite quotes on joy of gardening is from Davis Hobson, Australian Tenor and Composer,
I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.
Benefits of Growing Your Own Edible Garden
Gardening is a very healthy remedy with many health benefits, including physical, psychological, and social health, research shows such as the meta-analysis study of 22 separate case studies, done by the NIH:
Enjoyment and emotional well being. Mental and emotional health can be improved with gardening. Healthcare professionals are now
recommending gardening as a tool for therapy. Horticulture Therapy, uses gardening techniques in order to improve physical, psychological, and social well being of certain individuals, by allowing the gardener to recognize the positive effects they are experiencing, in order to take the focus off of their own problems such as clinical depression.
An Acardia University study addressed the results and the effects of gardening programs on prison inmate and determined health improvements in areas ranging from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia to obesity in 26 out of 29 meta-analyses. Studies, like this University of Hawaii study conducted by Dr. Bradley Willcox, on the health and social benefits of gardening in regard to increased longevity in centenarians in Okinawa, found that these centenarians attributed their longevity to “a reason for living” (1). And, gardening not only gave them a good reason for living longer, but also the social aspect and being connected to other gardeners at the vegetable markets where they sold their produce.
Additionally, you will be contributing to the environment by attracting birds, bees, and butterflies, help the wildlife, grow green to add oxygen and purify the air, and have a beautiful landscape for relaxation, play, family unity, and entertainment, which will benefit your mood and well being. Iowa State University has an interesting article on landscaping for wildlife that is well-worth reading, in case you interested in garden settings other than a vegetable garden.
Wikipedia describes a therapeutic garden this way:
A therapeutic garden is an outdoor garden space that has been specifically designed to meet the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of the people using the garden as well as their caregivers, family members and friends. Therapeutic gardens can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, skilled nursing homes, assisted-living residences, continuing-care retirement communities, out-patient cancer centers, and hospice centers. The focus of the gardens is primarily on incorporating plants and friendly wildlife into the space. The settings can be designed to include active uses such as raised planters for horticulture therapy activities or programmed for passive uses such as quiet private sitting areas next to a small pond with a trickling waterfall.
For more information on therapy gardening from Wikipedia read here. A University of Washington meta study confirmed a link between nature and outdoor settings with healing, both passive exposure to landscapes and more active interactions like gardening, with nature, provide mental and physiological benefits that contribute to healing and therapy.
The NIH reviewed a study of the Royal College of Physicians in London, addressing the increasing evidence that exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health of humans throughout society. An example of the benefits is to veterans of the armed forces, finding both mental conditions, such a post traumatic stress disorder, and the effects of physical injuries can be improved.
Exercise. Physical activity from gardening improves your endurance, flexibility, strength, and mobility. Gardening is a great way to increase your physical activity and burn calories to keep your weight in control. According to the Center Of Disease Control(CDC), gardening can improve your overall health, manage stress, and reduce the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, and certain types of cancer.
Adults need a minimum of at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity a week. According to Iowa State University, certain gardening activities, can burn between 160 to 200 calories in a thirty-minute period depending on if it’s digging, planting, or weeding, for a person weighing 150 pounds, which is excellent for losing weight and for your health.
Fresh Wholesome Foods. Your own garden is a great source of fresh, nutritious, and fairly inexpensive foods, and you can actually grow all of the fruits and veggies which comprise the Mediterranean Diet, considered to be the overall healthiest nutritional diet in the world. A BMJ study confirmed the health benefits of Mediterranean Diet and the ability to prolong life. Gardeners, in general, are much more health conscious. Home-grown edible foods are naturally low in calories,
sodium, fats, and a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemical substances which help protect plants from potential damage such as ultraviolet radiation, pests, toxins, and pollution. As humans, once we consume fresh edible plants, it helps us protect against free radical damage from cell oxidation. And best of all, you can literally walk out your back door into your garden and pick something fresh right of the plant or vine, wash it, and eat it raw, when it is at the absolute peak of optimal flavor and taste. Have you ever eaten a fresh ear of lightly-boiled or grilled Silver Queen corn right out of the garden, compared to a microwaved frozen piece of corn? Night and day difference, isn’t there?
The NIH has a great “News In Health” article about raising your own fresh nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, and herbs in your own backyard garden and how beneficial they are to you and your family’s health. Quoting the Dr. Phillip Smith, who oversees obesity research at NIH,
Gardening can also help to improve your diet if you eat more fruits and vegetables. They’re especially delicious, with a more intense flavor, when ripe and freshly picked.
There are specific nutrients in veggies and fruits that can help reverse mental health issues. Beets, artichokes, and spinach, contain tyrosine, which aids neurotransmitters which combat stress. Tryptophan, another plant nutrient, aids in balancing hormones, specifically, enhancing the release of serotonin, our pleasure hormone, enhancing mood and cognition.
Dark leafy greens, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes, contain healthy amounts of vitamin B12, and other B vitamins, which also aids in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Green veggies and citrus fruits contain folates, replenishing low folic acid levels which have been associated with mental deficiencies and depression.
Nature Healing. Did you know walking barefooted in dirt, on the ground, is good for you? Well, it is!
By grounding yourself, the soil transfers free electrons into your body that spreads throughout your bodily tissue. Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, besides relaxing you, and enhancing your well being. For me, it’s having my bare feet touch the loose sand on the beach in the early Spring for the first time after a long Winter, and the sand is usually hot, but it doesn’t matter.
It’s the most incredible feeling for me, then I’m off running to get into the water immediately. There are even good bacteria in good healthy soils that are believed to stimulate production of nureprinephrine and serotonin in your body which acts as an antidepressant. These hormones help the body to regulate the required balance of chemicals in the brain, reducing anxiety, and depression.
Nature connects you with the earth and all the other living elements of the natural world. By actively gardening, you will reconnect to one of nature’s many natural health remedies, which can add perspective to your human existence, calming you and re-centering you in a very satisfying way, and improving your mental state.
As it was with our ancestors, we are reminded that we are not the center of the universe, but a small, but, unique and important part, and we don’t have to be perfect, and required to do all things. In fact, nature reminds us we are not perfect, because that’s what makes each of us unique and different from each other, just as unique as nature. We, as humans, we have a vital place in this world, but our planet and the universe is much bigger than any of us.
Once you have Learned What To Grow In A Garden, you will understand the life and death cycle of plants which will always remind you of the cycle of life. Each season you will witness firsthand, your garden go through the complete cycle of life, from birth to death, and then renew itself next planting season, which you are instrumental in.
Taking an active part in the renewal of the life cycle, can assist you to see death as a part of life, a part of a larger process, keeping you out of anxious and depressive moods. In an article on nature awareness as a healing therapy, Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, explains this key healing quality of nature as it pertains to grief, said:
Being in nature one becomes aware of the infinite circle of life. There is evidence of decay, destruction and death; there are also examples of rejuvenation, restoration, and renewal.
Australian researchers have found that daily gardening represent the single biggest risk-reduction factor for dementia, reducing incidence of by at least 36%. This one long-term study, which involved 3000 older adults 60 and older, for a sixteen-year period, tracked a variety of lifestyle factors, and their relationship to developing dementia. Another similar study, estimated the risk reduction of dementia at 47%. Another NIH study looked at and confirmed the effectiveness of using therapeutic gardening for the elderly in reducing dementia and enhancing the quality of life.
Relaxation. Gardening involves implementing a meditative mindset, and mindfulness, which both support mental health. Mindfulness and meditation eases stress by activating the nervous system’s relaxation response, because we learn to witness our emotions from a distance, rather than get caught up in then. One Dutch study reviewed by the NIH participants were split into 2 groups.
One group, the “gardenners” read outdoors and not only had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol afterwards, they also felt “fully restored” to a good mood. The other group read indoors and reported their mood further deteriorated. So, gardening lifts our spirit our mood, and limits ruminations, which is the act of thinking repetitively about ourselves and our problems.
Grow Things You Can Eat
An edible garden is a garden that contains flowers, herbs, seeds, sprouts, berries, and plants you can eat. Flowers, sprouts, and herbs can be added in salads, add flavor to cooked dishes, be made into medicinal teas, or as garnishes. Plants and veggies can be eaten raw or cooked. What To Grow In A Garden? Here are some examples of flowers, herbs, sprouts, veggies, and fruits, which are suitable for an edible garden:
Flowers. Hibiscus, Carnations, chamomile, chrysanthemum, fuchsia, geranium, hibiscus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, impatiens, lavender, lemon blossom, lilac, marigold, pansy, rose, salvia, and violet. For example, Hibiscus, a tropical wild plant, is rich in organic acids and polyphenols, makes an incredible medicinal tea that is beneficial for the cardiovascular system, according to the NIH.
The Earth laughs in flowers!
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Herbs. Rosemary, basil, bay leaves (bay tree), chives, sage, mint, oregano, parsley, and thyme. Herbs and spices have many health and well being benefits, per this review by the NIH.
Veggies. Squash, tomatoes, corn, all varieties of peppers, beans, peas, lettuce, cabbage, kale, spinach, carrots, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, onions, garlic, asparagus, greens, potatoes (sweet and irish), and bean sprouts.
Fruits. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, avocados, passion fruit, oranges, pears, plums, peaches, apples, lemons, grapes, cherries, and limes.
Natural Fermented Foods Naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and yogurt, are made from veggies and fruits, provide good bacteria (probiotics) to the human gut restoring the micro-flora for good digestion, per this NIH study.
A Few Gardening Tips
Courtyards, balconies, porches, raised beds, or traditional gardens, are all suitable sites. For a traditional garden or raised beds, land should reasonable flat and receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day, and preferably, near a
water source. Suitable containers can be anything that will hold your plants in sufficient amount of rich organic soil, such as old wheelbarrows, old bathtubs, or cut whiskey barrels, with holes for proper drainage, or, terra cotta pots. Raised beds can be freestanding and terraced, or framed in untreated and stackable landscaping timbers or boards. If you have a North wall, consider growing plants and vines trained up the wall on a trellises.
It’s best to start your own compost pile, where you place kitchen scrapes and garden refuse, leaves, etc. to decompose (no meats or grease), so you supplement your growing soil with new nutrients each growing season. Plant healthier varieties, which are certified organic, non-GMO (non genetically modified) seeds, heirloom varieties, and heirloom cultivars. Use only your compost or certified organic fertilizers and mulch to conserve water. Rotate crops regularly at least once a year, to ensure that your soil retains nutrients and reduce the risk of disease and fungus.
Use organic preparations such as tobacco and liquid dish washing soap, garlic, chili, or milk sprays, to ward off bothersome insects. If you use pesticides, you will kill the good insects which are beneficial to your garden. If you are considering taking up gardening, here is a good reference book, written by David L Culp. “The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Your Year-Round Beauty From Brandywine Cottage”
Gardenmaking, in its finest form, is a celebration of life and of love. David and his book epitomize this.
—Lauren Springer Ogden
Here is one more reference “ Growing Vegetables With A Smile”
By establishing an edible garden, you will be taking care of furnishing your table with one of the major food groups, with fresh nutrient-dense fruits, veggies, nuts, and flower seeds. It will go a long way in helping you and your family maintain your overall health and well being. Let’s review all the major food groups.
Major Nutrient-Rich Food Groups</strong
Organic Fruits and Vegetables, Raw Nuts, and Flower Seeds-Fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds are naturally low in fats, and rich in micro-nutrients (A) including vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, essential amino acid, omega 3s, and anti-infammatories. Always grow certified organic and non-GMO fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. Orange and dark green veggies are the best skin colors and the healthiest.
Choose the following fruits and veggies to plant: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, leafy greens such as swiss chard, corn, cabbage, romaine, or bok choy, dark leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens, and kale, squash (summer and winter), carrots, and sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and asparagus, apples plums mango, papaya, pineapples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, other berries, pomegranates, and grapes. Citrus fruits grapefruit and oranges, peaches, pears, melons, and avocados.
Organic Whole-Grains and Complex Carbs Whole grain foods (A) are low in fats, high in fiber, and complex carbs, preventing overeating because you feel fuller longer. Always look for ingredient “whole” on the label, such as “whole wheat flour,” and have at least three grams of fiber per serving. Choose the following grains: rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas, whole grain wheat or rye crackers and breads, brown and wild rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, whole corn, and cracked wheat.
Lean Organic Grass-Fed Finished or Free-Range Meats. (A), Beef, bison, poultry, Veal, Lamb, Pork, and Brown Eggs. Choose low-fat lean cuts of certified organic, grass-fed finished beef or bison, or free-range chicken, turkey, duck, pork, veal, or lamb. Look for “round”, or “loin”, or “leg” cuts on the packaging. Trim other fat off before cooking, cooking by broiling, baking, or roasting. Limit the use of lean beef to not more than four times a week.
Chicken breasts are the best cut of poultry, being low in fat and high in protein. Always remove skin and excess fat before cooking, either baking, broiling, grilling, or roasting. Eggs are cage-free. Other healthy substitute meats for processed meats, include turkey bacon, ground chicken or turkey. Protein non-meats sources include beans, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, and chick peas.
Wild-Caught Fish and Shellfish–Fish and shellfish (A)should be fresh cold-water, or wild-caught fish (no farmed raised), clean and clear in color with firm springy flesh. If you can’t buy fresh, purchase frozen or low-salt canned fish. Wild-caught oily fish are best source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which include wild caught salmon, wild-caught tuna, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, and lobster.
Organic Grass-Fed Finished Dairy and dairy substitutes. Grass-fed dairy (A), like skim milk, or low-fat milk,or enriched milk substitutes. Replace cream with evaporated skim milk for cooking and coffee. Also use low-fat or fat-free cheeses. Use the following forms: low-fat, skim, nut, or enriched milk, like soy or rice, skim ricotta instead of cream cheese, low-fat cottage, string cheese, and plain low-fat yogurt in place of sour cream.
Organic Natural Fermented Foods You can make natural fermented foods (A)like Japanese Kimchi out of veggies made right out of your garden. Kimchi and other fermented foods are great sources of good bacteria to restore micro-flora in the gut, antioxidants, and polyphenols, and are excellent for your health. Other types are natural yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, raw cheese, tempeh, miso, apple cider vinegar, and fermented wine.
Fresh Organic Herbs and Spices Fresh herbs can be grown in your garden and are a great source of micro-nutrients such as antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals, plus others. Some examples are rosemary, cilantro, basil, oregano, chives, tarragon, turmeric, and others. Spices, rich in antioxidants, can be any number of spices numbering well over a 100 such as sea salt (rich in vitamins and minerals), pepper, cayenne, and others.
Antioxidant-Rich Organic Drinks For a healthy drink, make infused water or smoothies using fresh fruits or vegetables grown in your garden.
Supplement For Added Assurance
For added nutritional benefits and assurance to eating fresh nutritious foods, supplement your diet with a natural, organic, non-GMO, healing whole food Adaptogen Peruvian Maca (A), which will provide you with all the benefits of fresh nutritional whole foods. Adaptogens are a unique class of natural-growing plants (only a few recognized world-wide), that have the ability to assist the human body to “adapt” and naturally function properly. Adaptogens provide a “normalizing effect”, or balancing effect to your body, against harmful stressors, oxidation, inflammation, and other foriegn substances. Unfortunately, you can’t plant P Maca in your garden because it’s illegal to export the fresh root or seeds out of Peru, and i’s only available in powder and chunks.
P Maca is a natural, non-toxic, nutritionally balanced, whole food containing 60% Carbs, 11% Protein, 9% Fiber, 18 Amino Acids (almost all the Amino Acids), 20 free fatty acids, Vitamins Thamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Ascorbic Acid (C), and Niacin (great for healthy circulation). Minerals and trace elements such as Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, and Boron. It contains five different Sterols (lowers cholesterol), naturally occurring fruit sugar, and Phytonutrients Glucosinolates and Polyphenols (plant bio active compounds) believed to have antioxidants and anti-Cancer properties. For more in depth information on Peruvian Maca, it’s benefits, and where to purchase it, read these reviews: “What Is Healthy Living?” and, “How To Stress Relief“.
Look deep, deep into nature, and then
You will understand everything better.
Now that you know gardening is one of the important natural ways you can improve your health and you’ve Learned What To Grow In A Garden, are you ready to go out and buy a shovel, a hoe, a rake, a spader, and a wheelbarrow and get started? I hope you have found this article on gardening inspiring, and you take the steps in starting your own edible garden. Please leave your questions and comments below.
(1) Ted Talks Dr. Bradley Willcox
(2) CaliKim29 Compost Building Video
(A) Follow the links to reviews for more information, documented studies, and purchase all these incredibly nutrient-dense foods.