There’s really nothing like the joy of gardening. Connecting to nature, the pride of growing your own plants, flowers, food and of course, the amazing health benefits. It’s also well documented that gardens, no matter how big or small, have the potential to bring people and communities together, which is why on Sunday 21 October the call to action for South Africa’s annual Garden Day is to down tools, invite neighbours, friends and family round to celebrate your garden together.
Now in its third year, Garden Day sprouted as an idea from a group of enthusiastic gardeners who wanted to start a movement to unite South Africans by creating a day where everyone can enjoy and celebrate their gardens together.
Plants instead of pills
Many studies have shown that gardening can also make a significant contribution to our health and well-being, not just as a way to get some physical exercise but also to improve our mental health. GPs in London have already started to prescribe gardening time to assist patients with mental health troubles.
According to Professor Nox Makunga, a plant scientist at the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa has an incredible flora that has been used by people for health purposes for centuries.
“Apart from their aesthetic beauty, gardens have many healing properties linked to psycho-spiritual healing,” says Prof Makunga. “They may provide us with food and medicine and an interconnectedness to nature and the world around us and also to our very self. Benefits are thus psychological, social, emotional and physical. A medicinal garden in some households is a first line of primary health care.”
Gardening is not only beneficial for your mental health but is also the world’s best-kept exercise secret. Whether you spend five minutes or a whole day gardening, all the stretching, pulling and lifting will help you and your garden stay in great shape and increase your physical health by an average of 33% with knock-on benefits for rates of heart disease and diabetes. You may even live longer. “When one works the garden, the physical labour provide good exercise that benefits both the cardio and muscular system; and even, works the brain,” adds Prof Makunga.
Gardening does not only lift up your mood, it is also a great way of connecting with people and reducing loneliness, which is why this Garden Day South Africans are once again encouraged to sow the Spirit of Ubuntu. So if you’ve been admiring your neighbour’s garden from afar, intrigued by their rambling roses or eager to learn more about their striking succulents, Garden Day is the perfect time for you to branch out and cultivate relationships with those around you.
Gardener Alan Hulme likes to “mix it up” at his community garden Urban Organic in Blackpool. Local residents work alongside schoolchildren, as well as visually impaired and socially isolated people. “The garden is the focus,” he says, “but the secret ingredients are tea, cake and bringing people together.
Get ready, set … Garden Day … go!
Taking part in Garden Day couldn’t be easier: decide on how you want to celebrate your garden space with family, friends and neighbours then download the free Garden Day digital and printable invitation from the Garden Day website (www.gardenday.co.za) and send out to everyone inviting them to join you on Sunday, October 21.
Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- In the lead up to Garden Day get connected to Candide, a free, new geo-localised community gardening app set to inspire, educate and cultivate green fingers in South Africa. Discover and explore curated ideas, articles and tips from master gardeners and knowledgeable home gardeners in the app that can help you with Garden Day celebration ideas.
- Invite your family and friends for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Use fresh ingredients from your garden to make the food.
- Use fresh flowers and greenery from your garden to make flower crowns for everyone. Watch this short video on how to make a flower crown in five easy steps.
- Host a plant swop by asking guests to bring rare and interesting plants to swap with each other.
- Have a picnic on the lawn or a braai under the trees.
- Set your children off on a bug hunt to see how many different insects they can find in the garden. Collect them in a container so that you and the children can see them better with a magnifying glass. Return them to the wild when you have finished!
- Try outdoor yoga or meditation in your garden.
Share your Garden Day celebrations on your Instagram and other social media accounts using #gardenday.
For more ideas and Garden Day inspiration, visit www.gardenday.co.za and follow them on social media. Twitter: @gardendaysa, Instagram: @gardendaysa. Facebook:@gardendaysa. Hashtag: #gardenday.