August is one of my favorite months in the garden! Despite the hot weather, working outside is such a delight because of all the crops that are just begging to be harvested. We made salad this week with lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes from the garden. Delicious! We are also working on a large project to install some wire mesh gopher cages 2 feet deep into our beds. This involves removing two feet of soil, putting the cages into the ground, and shoveling the soil back in. Phew! The hard work will pay off when we can finally protect our crops’ roots from pest damage. We are currently transplanting some exciting herbs into our beds including basil, pepiche, popolo, chickweed, and hissop. Come to our herb class in September to learn more!
Gardening is an activity that can produce numerous health benefits, and for many people, stress relief is a big one. The process of gardening provides great physical activity and brain stimulation as well, but if you are looking for a way to reduce your stress levels, working on a home garden or urban garden may be the way to go. Just why is it that gardening has such a positive impact on one’s mental health in this way?
Gardening shines as a way to reduce stress and cortisol levels. According to Health, a study done in the Netherlands produced some interesting results that connected gardening to stress relief. In fact, the study demonstrated that gardening appeared to be more effective than reading in reducing stress and keeping it away. There are several ways that gardening impacts stress levels, but one key piece of the puzzle is that gardening can help to reduce cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone that is connected to your stress response. Psychology Today explains that cortisol is released as part of a fight-or-flight mechanism in response to stress or fear. Research shows that elevated cortisol levels can cause issues in a number of ways, such as with memory and learning, weight gain, and immunity. In addition, elevated cortisol levels can play a part in mental health issues, depression, and even a lower life expectancy.
Some medical professionals recommend gardening to alleviate stress and depression. Studies have shown that gardening has such a significant impact on stress relief that it is being used frequently in the form of horticultural therapy to help people who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, details NPR. Not only does gardening help to reduce cortisol levels, it also simply allows people an opportunity to get away from their hectic, often technology-driven lives and embrace a different kind of sensory experience.
In addition to reducing stress levels, gardening may help to reduce depression and mood issues as well. These mental health benefits may come simply from the activity of gardening itself, but some researchers also believe that a bacteria typically found in soil may also impact serotonin levels, which can boost one’s mood.
Gardening alleviates stress on several fronts. As Mother Earth News notes, gardening also provides the chance to increase your vitamin D levels, and that can aid in reducing fatigue and depression, too. Vitamin D levels are believed to impact people in many ways connected to both physical and mental health, and boosting those levels can lead to significant gains in one’s overall well-being.
The act of gardening in and of itself can feel therapeutic, and it provides an easy way for people to disconnect from their chaotic days and relax. For some people, gardening also impacts one’s spirituality, and that connection lends itself to reduced stress and improved mental health as well. Gardening can also promote mindfulness by helping people focus on what is right in front of them as they garden, pulling them away from work, family, or life stress.
Whether the benefits of gardening are sparked from the soil, the vitamin D exposure, the decreased cortisol levels, or simply the experience of digging in the soil and connecting with nature, there is no doubt that the health benefits that come from this activity are substantial. If you are looking for a way to improve your mental health, combat depression, and reduce your stress level, embracing the activity of gardening may be one of the most effective approaches you can take.
Guest author: Maria Cannon
Ms. Cannon believes we’re never too young to dedicate ourselves to a hobby. She created HobbyJr to encourage young people to find a hobby they love.
July is a busy month for us in the garden! We transplanted some of our grains into the bed – corn and sorghum – and they are both thriving. We interplanted beans between the corn and sorghum stalks to add nitrogen to the soil while providing ground cover, and the stalks will give the beans a pole to grow up. We’ve also transplanted basil, lettuce, and chard into some of our shadier beds. We’ve harvested some carrots, quinoa, and spring onions in the last couple of weeks. Our cherry tomato plants are finally producing sweet tomatoes since we’ve covered our plants with mesh to protect them from squirrels. Our strawberries are also producing some juicy red fruits, and the kids who come through the garden are loving them! Perhaps our least successful crop we harvested was spring broccoli; it seems that our Palo Alto climate is simply too warm for it. Here at Common Ground, we harvest and clear many beds in July. This gives us time to dig, amend, and prepare the beds for our winter and fall crops, which we will plant in the late summer. There is still much work to be done!
June is a busy month for the summer sustainable garden. Many of our favorite summer crops are heavy feeders and divas when it comes to soil tilthe. So, we double dig their beds- this includes zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, peppers, and the like. This month we’ve planted a number of these crops, and also transplanted our popcorn bed, which will be interplanted with locally bred and adapted Petaluma Goldrush Beans- and started chard, lettuce, and more basil for the shadier side of the bed. We learned that basil likes a bit of shade in the afternoon and hates wind! Its large delicate leaved quickly desiccated in the windy spot we planted it over a month ago. We’ve also been battling gophers for our onions, tree squirrels for our apricots, and ground squirrels for our rye grain. Aphids have taken a shine to our cabbage. We’ve managed to catch all the gophers causing trouble for the moment, and we’ve been washing our cabbage’s leaves of aphids, but plan to try spraying a salt-free soapy solution (perhaps a grey-water system safe soap) to get the remainder. After this month, we’ll be slowing our pace and tending to the crops we have.
This month we finally planted our tomatoes (everyone’s favorite!). In one bed we put in Cherry Chadwicks to save for seed to sell as a fund raiser. In the other bed we put in rich tasting full size Brandywines and Cherokee Purples. We will check to see if the pollen of the flowers of these are enclosed like the chadwicks so that cross-pollination will not be an issue. More lettuce, beets, potatoes, and beans were also transplanted. Soon we’ll be planting cantaloupe-type melons and lemon cucumbers.
We enjoyed harvesting the rest of our onions and leeks. 6th grade school groups loved cutting down the dried wheat and barley. Still to harvest of the winter crops are: garlic, rutabagas, and rye. Right now we are planting ‘full speed ahead’ as the summer heat rears its intense head and we prepare for the Edible Garden Tour July 8.
Check out the crop calendar above for a full list of plantings that will do well in our area this month.