By Jenn Watt
C ome August each year my gardening bag overflows with plump golden cherry tomatoes. One of my favourite things is to pluck them from the vine holding the tiny fruit warmed by midday sun up to my face breathing in its distinct fresh scent before devouring it.
Eating food directly from the earth touches something deep within us. There’s a pure joy to be found in crunching fresh lettuce or – my personal favourite – popping a pea from the pod right into your mouth. It’s an experience wholly different from other culinary delights and one that often triggers memories of youth long summer days and time spent outdoors.
Aside from the sheer delight of fresh food at your fingertips gardening offers much more. It requires physical exercise especially in the early days of preparing the soil and planting the seeds and is good for maintaining balance as you weed and tend to your plants.
Nutritional value of many vegetables is at its highest when first picked; harvesting your salad hours before you eat it can bring added health benefits.
And then there’s the good it does for your heart and mind.
Last summer The Guardian newspaper wrote a story detailing the mental health benefits of working in the garden: “Horticultural and woodland therapies are attracting attention thanks to the increasingly well-documented value of the outdoors for people’s mental health and wellbeing. In fact research has shown that the flexible nature of gardening projects allows service users to feel empowered in a non-threatening space. It also helps develop nurturing skills and is thought to boost mindfulness as well as increasing serotonin and dopamine levels.”
I can see how this is true. For several years now I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the community garden in Haliburton beside the old Victoria Street School. The experience has been a pleasure. I’ve learned the basics about growing vegetables and the rhythms of weeding watering and waiting. I’ve welcomed the hot sun on my back as I pulled weeds and taken great joy in watching wispy seedlings become stocky adult plants.
Every part of the process just feels good.
If you’ve ever thought about getting into gardening or you’ve found yourself outwitted by deer on your own property yet again consider joining one of the county’s community gardens.
Although the one on Victoria Street is full there are several in need of members including Eagle Lake Gooderham Wilberforce and Highland Grove. There are also resources available for those looking to start up new community gardens. (See more at HaliburtonEcho.ca )