Tending Helps a Tender You

This morning, I transplanted my seedlings into the garden bed. The ones I planted from seed didn’t look so healthy; I’d been traveling too much to care well for them. We decided to drive over to the next town through the stunning Pennsylvania countryside to what we locally call the region’s “Secret Garden”: Tait Farm. My daughter and I chose from their wonderful selection of organic seedlings. This year, we planted Beefsteak, Supersweet Cherry, San Marzano, a Tomato Blueberry (dark purple cherry tomato), and a Pinot Noir Purple Sweet Pepper.

Our small garden will burst with tomatoes and peppers, oregano, and basil in addition to the fall harvest of pumpkins. On the other side of the backyard, we’re still tending the blackberries, raspberries, plums, and peach. On the porch, we have the potted fig and potted lemon tree. We shall see what happens with those! And I’ll be sure to post some pictures.

This isn’t simply what it seems. Tending a garden—no matter how small—matters deeply for well-being.

Consider this research article on the impact of gardening on cultivating recovery for those in psychiatric units and the fascinating science on “attention restoration” and how tending plants helps restore our ability to focus. The research study indicated some of these cool results: “Gardening stimulated [a] reflective process whereby participants used the garden symbolically to gain insight into their illness. Exposure to nature and sensory stimulation provided calmness. . . [and often] resulted in descriptions of improved mood and pro-social behavior. [Tending a garden] fostered a sense of community, belonging, shared purpose, and reduced isolation,” and it “offered temporary distraction from unpleasant thoughts.”

If you haven’t started a little garden, think about tending some plants outside this summer. If you’re sad, discouraged, low-energy, or filled with negative thoughts, the research indicates tending a garden will help a tender you.

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