Zen and the Art of Gardening
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
We sometimes hear about a person being “well grounded”. This means that they are well-balanced and sensible. I think it an interesting expression because putting your bare feet on the turf and your hands in the soil literally creates a physiological and psychological effect on a person. They become, almost magically and instantaneously, more peaceful and happier, if not entirely sensible. With the coming of spring and aligning with my interest in helping people live better and happier lives, I am advocating that you get out in the garden and, if you don’t have one, to create a little plot where you can dig your hands in the soil.
Whether it be flowers, shrubs, and/or vegetables that you grow, there are a host of benefits that you will derive by doing so.
- Gardening provides you with the literal fruits of your labor, which you can then eat and which can make you healthier. There is nothing better than vine-ripened tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, onions, squash, etc. There is no substitute, nutritionally, for produce that you grow, harvest, and immediately consume.
- Putting your hands in the soil gives you a little bit of exercise, which most of us can use. It is the kind of exercise for which humans are well-suited. After all, we didn’t used to garden because it was some sort of Zen activity. Historically, we grew stuff because we needed the food that gardening produced. Gardening is hardwired into our genetics.
- The simple action of tilling the soil, planting, and tending to our vegetable children reduces stress; and by that, I mean that it actually reduces the stress response in your brain, which does everything from lower your blood pressure to boost your immunity.
- Then there is a rather esoteric, but nonetheless true concept that placing your body, hands and feet in contact with solid ground connects you to an energy that permeates this earth. I think this is not exclusive to gardening, but is also true of any activity that creates an intimate relationship with nature such as hiking, climbing, canoeing, etc.
- We live in a relatively frigid environment and are, for much of the year, deprived of the sunlight that we need for vitamin D production. Getting out in the garden gives you a beautiful dose of vitamin D which your body uses to boost immunity, fight depression, build strong bones, and much more.
A “garden” can be a range of things. It can be a pot on your deck in which you cultivate flowers and some vegetables and herbs. It can also be a massive expanse that encompasses your entire backyard. In between those two extremes, there are many ways that you can garden. There are the little garden plots on the side of your house, and then there are raised beds, either raised mounds on existing earth, or even in a raised frame structure. Some years ago, I got this wild idea that I would try my hand at gardening. I decided that, particularly given the deer situation in my backyard, I would create a raised bed with a large, impenetrable fence around it. Below you can see a couple photos of my garden.
I play around with growing different things every year, but always grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, herbs, kale, and a little bit of lettuce. I have experimented with other things such as zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, but found that many of those plants take up too much room in my little garden. One tip is to grow the stuff that you like to eat.
The nice thing about this type of garden is that you don’t have to bend over when you are tending it; and that, for someone with a sore back, is a nice attribute. The negative is that I had to haul 75 wheelbarrows full of dirt to fill it, and that about killed me. It’s a trade-off. In addition to this format which, once you get it going, is pretty easy, another hot tip is to install an automated drip irrigation system. You can find such a product at www.dripworks.com. As a consequence, there are times when I will go weeks without doing much in the garden, which kind of defeats the “Zen” aspect of the project, but I can only do with a little bit of Zen anyway.
The gardening season is upon us. I would encourage you to grow something and, when you do, something will also grow in you. Enjoy.
As a chiropractor in Edina, I strongly believe in the power of maintaining physical and mental wellness. That’s why I’m advocating for the health benefits of gardening. Gardening is not only a peaceful and rewarding activity, but it can also provide individuals with fresh, nutritious produce, exercise, stress reduction, and a dose of vitamin D essential for overall health. It doesn’t matter the size or type of garden, whether it’s a pot on your deck or a massive expanse in your backyard. Gardening is a fantastic way to connect with nature and promote wellness in your life.