Gardening – Spring is here!

by Andrea Wackerle

April 17, 2019

By: Bridget Tyson

Spring has arrived at last! Moreover, it is my favorite time of the year, the gardening season. My name is Bridget Tyson and I am the Comptroller here at SOAR. Also, in my spare time, I grow peppers and tomatoes for the Jackson County Farmers Market. Most Saturdays in the spring will find me convincing people they need hot peppers to plant in their gardens. Recently, I was lucky enough to do a Workshop Wednesday with the Academy. All the students in the workshops were very interested to learn about seeds, planting, pollinating, and growing vegetables and plants. We discussed the downside of GMO altering, the importance of bees, the necessity of saving our heritage seeds, and the right to grow food for ourselves. I hope I passed on my passion and hope of future gardeners to some young minds.

I accidentally became obsessed with gardening when one of my friends gave me a plant that was supposed to be a ghost pepper but turned out to be a habanero. The fascination of watching it grow and the surprise of getting a different pepper than I expected turned me into an avid gardener. Soon I found out that I had a seed problem when I planted the whole pack but only needed 10 plants. I started selling the extras at the local farmers market. I also discovered that gardening had positive mental and physical health benefits.

The Benefits of Gardening

The UK and Canada have been involved in numerous case studies regarding children with special educational needs and the benefits of gardening. The Royal Horticultural Foundation (RHF) in the UK found that tending and caring for plants improved the attainment of knowledge and understanding. They saw an improvement in the ability to think independently, the ability to question and to apply concepts and principles in different contexts. Children that have been involved in community gardens had an enhanced ability to concentrate and improved their nonverbal communication skills allowing them to better interact with their peers.

Another wonderful aspect of getting involved with a garden is stress relief. Children with learning disabilities have an added weight on their shoulders causing them to feel more stressed, leading to tension and anxiety. An experiment published in the Journal of Health Psychology compared gardening to reading as a stress reliever and found that subjects who gardened experienced a more significant decrease in stress by reducing cortisol levels and improved mood. Plants and flowers engage the senses without being over stimulating. Children can discover different colors, textures, and scents in a calming natural setting.

Another reason gardening has a positive effect is the connection with nature. One of the gardening therapy practices is called the “Grounding Technique” which enables gardeners to put themselves directly in the moment. This reduces the ruminating of an overactive mind that tends to run over problems or mistakes. It can give even the most negative person the feeling of achievement and purpose. Working in nature releases happy hormones, serotonin, and dopamine rise and although gardening can be tiring, it can help you sleep better and feel renewed inside.  Some aspects of gardening allow us to vent anger and aggression, digging, chopping, and pulling weeds, while others allow us to feel in control. Anxiety often makes people feel overwhelmed while garden can give you a sense of control.

A garden is a perfect place to acquire a variety of learning, mental, and emotional needs by creating tasks, job duties, timelines, and attention-demanding tasks. Planning skills are a vital part of developing leadership abilities and improved concentration.

I truly believe that the most important aspect of gardening is the inherent relationship with hope. When you plant a seed, there is hope it will sprout, hope for tasty fruits and vegetables, and hope for a bountiful fall. Some children who face learning disabilities have a sense of hopelessness. Gardening encourages people to engage in an activity that is full of hope and for me, that is highly therapeutic.