Get The Gardening Glow

 

With almost 67 per cent of Australians living in our capital cities, we’re one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. Considering the day-to-day stresses or urban living, traffic, overcrowding and simply not enough time – this means up to 16 million of us could benefit from the physical and mental advantages provided by gardening.

Whether it’s a sprawling veggie patch in the backyard, a flowerbed in a small courtyard, a window box or even a community garden space, almost anyone can achieve a gardening glow. 

Gardening is a great workout, It not only works all those major muscle groups, it burns calories as well. Also, gardening improves the mood almost instantly, so it’s fantastic for the soul.

The Fitness Factor

Forget about working hard in the gym or building up a sweat on the treadmill, gardening is just as good as a workout, if not better. Prolonged light exercise such as gardening can burn more calories than a gym session, despite being much easier to do.

Stress Relief

Gardening can increase life satisfaction, reduce and promote recovery from stress, enhance self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression and fatigue. Ask any gardener and almost all will insist that they feel better after getting their hands dirty in the soil. An activity like gardening gives you something to celebrate and care about. When you’ve tended and grown something it gives you a sense of purpose and pride, which in turn make you feel good about yourself.

Mood Enchasing

Having flowers in and around your home not only looks beautiful, they also have amazing health benefits, such as reducing stress and depression. Flowers increase positive energies and soothe and relax the soul. Plants in the home also increase energy levels and vitality. 

Immunity Boost

We often avoid getting our hands dirty but there are health benefits to be gained from exposure to soil. We need to be 100 per cent hygienic but we don’t need to be 100 per cent dirt or germ-free because our immune system needs something to spar with.

Air Quality

Plants have been shown to absorb and degrade all types of urban air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollutants, thereby reducing air pollution levels. We have a vital need for constant connections with plants for cleaner air, so gardening time is vital. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes each day in the garden can also improve sleep quality because breathing fresh air stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the brain, which is responsible for relaxation.

 

Considered Growing A Balcony Garden?

We’ve all come across bare balconies when driving through our cities, often reminding us of the baron one at our own apartment and then suddenly we spot that one with the lush green walls, planters and hanging baskets and almost instantly feel uplifted. However, if the thought of trying to grow fruit, herbs and decorative plants and getting them to thrive in what might seem harsh conditions bares to much stress to even fathom, you needn’t worry, there is hope in that lush balcony garden.

The trick to getting your balcony to look green is in understanding the conditions of your space and working out what plants will suit the environment. The main obstacles you will face are wind, rainfall and light levels (direct sun or no direct sun).

Establishing the microclimate of your space is rather easy and only requires observation and minor research of your neighbourhoods climate and past weather patterns. (a task you will only need to do once).

So after you have determined the average rainfall in your area, amount of days of extreme heat or cold, and average temperature, then all you need to do is step outside into your space and determine the aspect (sunlight and wind direction). This background and understanding of your environment will give you the information needed in selecting the right plants.

So let’s start with light level. If your balcony, patio or alfresco area faces or takes the brunt of the sun majority of the day then you’re only option is to select full sun loving plants, which are hardy and can withstand the hot direct sun in summer.

By selecting plants that work with your environment it will make gardening so much easier than trying to fight nature. The same concept applies to spaces that receive almost no light at all, which would require shade loving plants in order to make it work.

The best way to determine what plants to even consider is to think about a place or environment that could possibly match yours. e.g., hot and arid driven places such as Mexico, you instantly think of an Agave (used to make tequila). So you will then know that this species of plant will work in your space and is a possible option for your garden or balcony. By selecting the right plants, you will then only need to provide minor assistance in making sure they look green and lush.

So next time you come across a garden or area with a similar garden or balcony environment such as yours just take note of what plants they have growing and how well they’re doing. This will be your starting point at making sure that your balcony garden has the best chance of being a green oasis.

The other factor to consider in the success of your balcony garden is the additional wind the plants are going to bear the brunt of. Catering to a balcony with such an issue will require the need of additional watering due to the leaves drying out faster than those planted at ground level.

The best option is to group your plants and their containers once they have been selected, with the taller plants towards the back and the small ones being visible to the front. By grouping your plants the loss of water will be far less than if they were individually spaced and also reduce the impact the force of the wind.

How To Get the Kids Gardening

 

It won’t be news to you that today’s kids don’t spend enough time outdoors. Despite our frequent encouragement (or should we say please) the lure of phones, iPads and the TV, prove too strong a match for the prospect of fresh air and sunshine.

Throw in our own busy lifestyles and it’s a tough ask to meet the activity levels recommended for health and wellbeing. If you think you’ve used every trick in the book to get your kids off the couch, think again.

Gardening might just be your new best friend.

It turns out a bit of green thumb activity is the perfect fit for the creativity and boundless energy of children. If you don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel (hint: they’re actually the same thing), these tips will come in handy when convincing your kids to get into the garden.

Motor skills and intellectual stimulation

Most children love being outdoors, creating things, digging in the soil, getting dirty and watching plants grow. By channelling that passion into gardening, your kids will learn new skills and develop self-confidence while they get to play and have fun. And there’s nothing more satisfying than tending to plants and growing food you then get to eat.

There’s no room for boredom

There are so many different skills needed in the garden, from weeding to pruning, planting seedlings to harvesting vegetables. That makes it perfect for restless, energetic little ones. Set up a circuit of different stations in your backyard so your whole army of budding gardeners remain engaged for hours at a time.

Muddy hands and face, oh yeah!

Do your kids love mess as much as you despise it? The garden is one place where it’s recommended to get your hands dirty, which your little ones are sure to love.

Gardening lets them get as filthy as they like, meaning they’ll get all that wild banshee energy out of their system – and at a safe distance from your beautiful linen sofa.

Keep it simple

As we all know, kids are inquisitive (read: easily distracted), so start them off with plants that are child-friendly: those that grow quickly, are hardy or have interesting textures or colours. Give your kids their own garden space and start small. Think a few pots, a large container or a 1 metre x 1 metre patch in the garden. Soon they’ll feel like this activity is really their own.

Use colours and shapes to stimulate them

Kids like large, brightly coloured flowers and vegetables. Sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries are all great choices for visually interesting plants.

Strawberries in particular are an easy (and rewarding) plant for your kids to grow, thanks to the added fun of picking and eating your very own berries.

Fruit trees are another great choice. Go for a lemon or orange tree – hello freshly squeezed OJ and lemonade – and make sure you buy an established tree, otherwise you (and your kids) will be waiting years for any fruit!

Stimulation overload – mission impossible in the garden

Create a sensory garden by adding some plants that reward touching, tasting and smelling, alongside those with bright colours and interesting textures. Find some varieties that make noise when the wind blows through them. By stimulating every one of their senses, the garden will quickly capture their attention.

Start a project

Make a mini greenhouse, set up a worm farm and plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds. Show your kids where flowers, fruit and vegetables come from by planting seeds together. You can let them decide what they would like to grow, and they can see the growing process from start to finish. A great little experiment is to grow an avocado from seed. As well as enjoying a bounty of free avocados, you and your kids also get to see the huge seed turn into a plant. Another great way to bring the kids outside is by building a bean or vine teepee. By planting a vertical garden, this will create a fun hideout for the kids and you’ll be having to tell them to come inside for once.

This one is for the parents

Garden organically wherever possible and make sure you only give children garden tools that are safe and that they’re ready to handle. There are heaps of garden tools available now that are made just for kids.

 

Starting a Meditation Garden

 

Everything in the garden offers some form of nurturing, whether it’s food or something visual.

For years we’ve been seeking to create a sanctuary in our built environment that reflects the need for relaxation, contemplation and escape from stress. A garden, balcony or an indoor urban jungle does just that.

People are starving for more nature and serenity in their lives, the great thing about a meditation or a zen garden is that you don’t even have to know anything about meditation to create one.

It doesn’t take years of study under a zen master, though, to feel the calming effects of spending time in a garden or in nature—if only to enjoy refuge from the constant sensory bombardment of urban life. Just being outdoors elicits more awareness of what the world is truly made of.

There is no right or wrong way to make a meditation garden; the whole goal is to make a garden that both calms and inspires you, and when you open your eyes, inspires you even more.

No one knows exactly why gardens have such healing and stress-reducing properties; it seems to be at least partially a primordial reaction wired into our central nervous system. Researchers have found that the more a garden engages the senses, the stronger its ability to distract us from the stressful whirlwind of our thoughts.

The gardens that work best are places that facilitate awe and fascination, bringing you in touch with yourself and your surroundings at the same time. The best way to establish this is to try to see your garden space as an “outdoor room”. It’s a place where you’ll go to relax, rest, and recline, so it will need to have features in it that you find comfortable, uplifting, and secure.

It could also be a place to incorporate your daily yoga routine, or where you spend time with family, either gardening or just enjoying your morning cup of coffee.

If you are going to share this garden with family or others, get their ideas and input too. And always remember that this is your garden; it’s your intent that counts when creating a meditation garden.

You might find really good inspiration in traditional gardens from other parts of the world. While there is no need to follow a theme, having one can instill a sense of calmness through orderliness and focus.

Start a plan. Incorporate all the positive attributes of your existing area and being aware of the size, sound levels, terrain and views of your existing garden (for example, you might already have a pleasant quiet area or a fish pond that you can work around). Begin planning for the desired features that you haven’t yet got. Draw an outline of how you perceive your garden, including the features you intend to add. This plan can be updated and changed as you proceed, but it’s a good idea to begin with a basic idea to work from and incorporate plants in the plan to make sure they work in harmony with each other and the environment.

Use eco-friendly garden solutions and products. A meditation garden is a place to be at one with nature and the Earth; it wouldn’t make sense to drown it in chemicals such as pesticides (insecticides), fungicides, anti-microbials and rodenticides. If you are practicing a philosophy of non-harm, using such toxins can affect the quality of the garden and plants as your well-being. Instead, look for the eco-friendly options to keep weeds and other pests under control within your garden, as well as using eco-friendly plant nutrient options, such are incorporating a worm farm and a compost bin.

Keep updating and changing your garden to suit your needs. As with meditation itself, you to grow and change over time, so your garden should not be stuck in time. Replenish and refurbish your garden as your own needs and wants evolve, just like you would any other space in your home.