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Hands in soil

Pour some soil on me

Spending regular time in the garden has undisputed health benefits, and there’s an abundance of scientific evidence to back up such claims. “Next time you’re feeling under the weather, down in the dumps or stressed out, don’t reach for a packet of pills – grab your garden fork instead,” says Professor Nox Makunga, a plant scientist at the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University. “There are dozens of studies globally that have looked into how gardening affects your health and there’s only one conclusion: gardening is incredibly good for you.”

In fact, gardening is considered so beneficial in the United Kingdom (UK) it’s estimated that one in five doctors practice ‘green prescribing’, where patients partake in regular gentle activities, such as community gardening, to prevent diseases like diabetes and dementia, and tackle issues like isolation. Not-for-profit organisations like Down To Earth assist people in growing and harvesting their own fruit and vegetables on allotted patches of earth. Supported by medical professionals, the goal is not to simply produce great harvests, but to encourage greater social interaction, a practice that doctors believe contributes enormously to better mental health and wellbeing.

And it’s not just retired folk with lots of time on their well-worn hands who are benefitting from these therapeutic activities. Millennials in the UK, disturbed by an increasingly turbulent world, are finding peace amidst plants, eschewing relaxation trends like yoga and meditation and choosing instead to spend more time gardening, growing and getting their hands dirty.


Corrie Gunter, millennial gardener in his apartment in Gardens, Cape Town.

This well-spent time can be extremely beneficial in a number of ways:

1. Replace screens with greens for lifelong genes

Every hour spent in front of a TV screen shortens your life by 21 minutes, whereas every hour spent gardening lengthens it.

2. Budding brains

School gardening clubs teach children fine motor skills through tasks such as transplanting seedlings and tying in tomatoes.

Child with terranium

3. Green finger gains

Gardening gets us off our couches and increases physical health by an average of 33%, also contributing to decreased incidence of heart disease and diabetes. Half an hour pushing a lawnmower burns 150 calories, equivalent to a moderate session in the gym…and you’ll never have to worry about renewing your membership.

4. Best buds 

Couples who garden together, stay together.  Yes, planting partners report that they’re far more patient with each other.

Couple in garden

5. Dig In

The secret of gardeners’ happiness could well lie in the soil: mice show increased levels of serotonin – the ‘happiness hormone’ – when exposed to soil bacteria.

6. Planting for productivity

Office workers who have houseplants on their desks are 15% more productive than those who don’t.

7. Taking thyme out

A study asked two groups of people to perform a highly stressful task. During their downtime, they asked one group to read a book and the other to perform 30 minutes of gardening. Even though both tasks lowered levels of Cortisol (the stress-inducing hormone) in the brain, gardening had a higher effect.

Working in garden

So please, join in on Garden Day and celebrate the nourishing, healing power of your garden – or those of your neighbours, family and friends. And then, in our professional opinion, we prescribe doing this daily, 365 days a year.

Follow @GardenDaySA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and don’t forget to tag us and use #GardenDaySA whenever you’re getting some goodness in the garden.  

For more information on the physical and mental benefits of being in the garden, as well as revitalising recipe ideas using ingredients fresh from the soil, join the Candide app garden community. Candide features an extensive knowledge base of plants, plant identification and growing tips, is free for download in the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.