Dig for victory: The many benefits of gardening

It’s official, the art of gardening is on-trend. In fact, according to a recent survey, one in eight young people think gardening is cool and more than half would rather go to a garden centre than a nightclub!

So maybe it’s time we took a leaf out of the younger generation’s book by rolling up our sleeves and connecting with nature?

Of course, gardening is so much more than a mere fad. Many of us remember our parents ‘digging for victory’. But if you’ve forgotten just how rewarding an afternoon of gardening can be, read on as we reveal the many benefits of this pastime as well as the best ways to get growing…

Why you don’t actually need a garden to enjoy gardening

Think gardening is only for those with metres of manicured lawn? Think again. Anyone can sow and grow, whatever the amount of space you have. A few containers on a balcony, a window box or a hanging basket can add instant colour. Even a small kitchen windowsill can provide the perfect setting for pots of herbs to thrive. Alternatively, you may be lucky enough to live close to an allotment or community garden where you can grow produce on a larger scale.

And you don’t need to invest in expensive equipment either. Many seeds can be started off in everyday items such as used yoghurt pots or egg cartons.

The many benefits of gardening

There is something incredibly satisfying about growing a plant from seed. Nurturing it and watching it bloom is rewarding in itself, but gardening comes with a whole host of other benefits too:

  • Boost your mental health: By focusing on just one task, it can help to take your mind off everyday worries.
  • Practice mindfulness: Getting outside, listening to the birdsong, feeling the breeze on your skin, and smelling the scent of the flowers is a great way to relax.
  • Enjoy a workout: Digging, weeding, planting, raking, mowing the grass – an afternoon in the garden makes for an ideal cardio workout. Even those with more restricted mobility can feel the benefits – pricking out, potting up or transplanting seedlings is a good way to keep fingers flexible and supple.
  • Increase your vitamin D levels: Heading out into the sun is the perfect way to top up your vitamin D levels, needed for strong bones and a healthy immune system.
  • Beat the rising cost of living: There has never been a better time to grow your own. Enjoy the fruits of your labour or swap surplus supplies with friends and neighbours to cut the cost of your weekly food shop.
  • Eat healthier: There’s no healthier dinner than one that has been prepared using produce from your own vegetable patch with no unnecessary processing on its journey to your plate (and of course it’ll taste so much better knowing you’ve grown it yourself!)
  • Make new friends: Gardening is a great conversation starter. Whether you’re exchanging gardening tips or and exchanging produce over the garden fence, gardening is a great way to form new friendships.
  • Save the planet: Do your bit for the environment by growing plants that absorb carbon dioxide from the air and encourage local wildlife such as bees, butterflies and birds to flourish.

Top five easy things to get growing

Keen to go green but not sure where to start? Here are five practically fool-proof ways to unlock your inner Alan Titchmarsh:

  1. Herbs: Add a little extra flavour to mealtimes by adding some freshly grown herbs. All you need is a sunny kitchen windowsill, a few pots and seeds to get started, and within weeks you can add a kick to your culinary creations.
  2. Lettuces: Crisp and juicy, these can be grown in containers or grow bags if you’re short on space. Just remember to keep them well watered. Start sowing the seeds the last week of March and continue to sow small amounts of seeds weekly for the next 10 weeks to ensure you have a continual supply throughout the summer.
  3. Potatoes: This staple can grow just as well in a grow bag as a vegetable patch. Simply half-fill your grow bag with compost and plant one or two whole potatoes. Once you see green shoots emerging, cover with more compost. When they re-emerge, cover with yet more compost and repeat until the bag is full. When the foliage starts to wither, the potatoes are ready to be dug out and enjoyed.
  4. Tomatoes: This versatile superfood can be grown inside or outside, depending on how much space you have. Water them daily and feed with a high potassium liquid fertiliser every fortnight once the first fruits start to swell to boost your chance of a bumper crop.
  5. Strawberries: There’s nothing better than homegrown strawberries and cream on a summer’s day. They can be grown in containers and even in hanging baskets – just make sure you feed those in containers with a high potassium liquid feed, weekly or fortnightly throughout the summer.

Top tips for safe gardening 

Before you reach for your spade, it’s a good idea to remind yourself of these common-sense safety warnings:

  • Wear sunscreen: It’s easy to while away a whole afternoon pottering about in the garden and lose track of time, so make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen before you head out.
  • Don’t over-do it: Take frequent breaks, keep hydrated, and ask for help if attempting to lift heavy pots or bags of compost.
  • Always read the label: Remember, chemicals such as fertiliser and weedkiller can be harmful if not used correctly, so always read the label and wash your hands thoroughly after use.
  • Protect yourself: Be sure to wear protective gloves when handling sharp tools or tackling thorny bushes, prickly weeds, or stinging nettles. It’s also important to wear safety goggles when using potentially hazardous equipment and machinery such as garden strimmers. And be wary of trip hazards such as lawnmower cables.

Enjoy the good life at a Brio retirement community

Every Brio integrated retirement community features a community garden where all homeowners are free to help grow a variety of plants and produce. Our thoughtfully designed properties also provide ample opportunity to ‘grow your own’ on a balcony or within a shared garden, for example.

The ethos at the heart of every Brio community is that retirement is a chance for you to discover a world of new hobbies and activities. So, whether you fancy taking up gardening for the first time, or you were born with green fingers, there’s a place for you to call home right here.

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