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Yes we can grow food

Gardening as a stress reliever

by Jim O'Donnell for the Taos Land Trust
Posted 4/24/20

For a time, I had four large plastic pots in my sun-soaked living room.

I arranged them in a square and put a chair in the middle. In the pots I grew a jungle of shapely tomato plants, basil, thyme, carrots, daikon radishes and a random assortment of flowers. At some point I lost count of the hours I sat in that chair bathing in the tonic of the plant-laced scents of petrichor.

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Tempo

Yes we can grow food

Gardening as a stress reliever

Posted

For a time, I had four large plastic pots in my sun-soaked living room.

I arranged them in a square and put a chair in the middle. In the pots I grew a jungle of shapely tomato plants, basil, thyme, carrots, daikon radishes and a random assortment of flowers. At some point I lost count of the hours I sat in that chair bathing in the tonic of the plant-laced scents of petrichor.

If gardeners know one thing it's this: there is no better medicine than nursing life from the soil.

These are tough times. Our normal lives are deeply and permanently disrupted. We are stuck at home. Our children are stuck at home. We may have lost our jobs or had our income cut. We are trying to figure out how to work, how to educate our kids, how to survive. These are the in-between times: we know that everything has shifted but we don't yet know what the new normal will be. And that is freaking stressful.

You may not typically think of gardening as a stress reliever, but it is. The simple act of creating your own green haven can have a profound impact on your mental well-being. There are also the added benefits of additional sunlight, physical movement, the creation of beauty and being in touch with the wonders of the natural world. You don't always need to head to the wilds to be in touch with nature - you can create it right in your own backyard, on your balcony or in a sunny part of your house. Last but not least - getting you away from your computer or television and the constant barrage of terrible news.

Another thing that gardeners know is that you can grow food anywhere: in a pot on a window ledge or on a balcony, out on your porch, in your backyard - no matter how small - you can have a garden.

For children, gardening is not only a stress reliever (yes, your children are feeling the stress of these times, too) but a fun and educational activity with very practical - let's say edible - results.

Gardening can take awhile. Kids prefer quick results. Start out with some microgreens while you're getting more long-term plants going. Microgreens are edible shoots of plants that are harvested just after the first leaves develop. This takes about two weeks. This is a solid guide on getting your microgreens in gear.

While your greens are growing, pick your larger gardening project. Think small. Think manageable. What can you and your kiddos handle? Don't do more than that.

Next, pick plants that are easy to grow and that will grow in the space you've chosen for your garden be it indoors or out. It's important to build in the feeling of success so that your kids want to garden. Things like sunflowers, radishes, carrots, squash, tomatoes, lettuces, peas and beans, sweet peas, poppies, marigolds, pansies and nasturtiums are good plants to start with.

You do the hard work - like turning the soil or carrying the heavy bags of potting soil. With kids you need to focus on the joy of planting, watering and harvesting. That said, if your kiddos are all over the hard work, then include them!

So now you've got your garden growing. If your garden is outside, find ways to integrate wildlife into your garden. Add a birdbath and a bird feeder. Plant flowers that will attract bees and butterflies. Both inside and outside you can also get crafty and add things to your garden area like making a scarecrow or painting the pots you planted in, make your bird feeder from recycled materials, make dangling decorations from beads, shells, colorful plastics and fishing line.

The garden, indoors and out, can be a great place to educate your kids about ecosystems. Talk to them about native and nonnative plants. Show them how to control weeds. Which weeds are OK and which are invasive? Teach them why some plants are preferable to others in your garden.

And show your kids how to compost. It can be a lot of fun seeing kitchen scraps turn to fertile soil over time.

At last it is time to eat. Let your children do the harvesting. Find some yummy, easy-to-make recipes that utilize things your child has grown. Farm to table, baby!

I remember my living room garden and how much food I was able to grow in those four buckets. But what I remember more than anything else was the peace of mind I felt sitting there in the sun, surrounded by green - I could breathe.

There are so many things we can't do right now. What can we do? Grow food.

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