Top ten reasons to get out into the garden this autumn

1. Air quality…breathe easy this winter

Have you got the heating on? Windows closed? First signs of a sniffle or a cough? No wonder.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that the air within homes can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air, even the largest and most industrialized cities. In an Irish context this situation could be viewed as worse for a number of reasons: our short winter days keep us indoors, we tend not to be prepared for outdoor activities and this is reflected in our infrastructure, we have poor standards of insulation and thus have to use more artificial heating methods. Many winter activities are costly, especially for families with young children. We’re one step from hibernation…but we’re not designed for that.

Gardens are free, easy to get to, can be interpreted in all sorts of ways and if you’ve got plants and trees in yours, your air quality will be better. Take a few minutes each day to take a few deep breathes of quality garden air.

2. Let your garden lighten the load…

Current research estimates that 40% of Irish adults and 25% of Irish children are overweight, of these, 20% of adults are obese and perhaps most shocking, 6% of three year olds are obese. I don’t know about you, but that last statistic is a damning indictment on our society.

Thankfully, gardening represents a wonderful weight to burn off those extra calories. One study suggests that very moderate gardening activity can burn 300 calories an hour. Below is a more detailed breakdown based on a male weighing 81kgs doing 30 minutes of gardening activity.

  • Water the lawn or garden with a hose to burn 61 calories.
  • Rake leaves to burn 162 calories.
  • Bag leaves to burn 162 calories.
  • Plant seeds or seedlings to burn 162 calories.
  • Weed a garden to burn 182 calories.
  • Plant trees to burn 182 calories.
  • Clear land to burn 202 calories.
  • Dig, till or spade a garden to burn 202 calories.
  • Lay sod to burn 202 calories.
  • Chop wood to burn 243 calories.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower to burn 243 calories.

Some things to keep in mind: undertake work 3-5 times a week, plan and vary your tasks, watch your back, consciously engage with the tasks in context with exercise, you can do this by exaggerating movements, do a quick stretch before and after, stay hydrated.

You garden is a gym with no membership fee. In fact it’ll pay you back in a whole host of ways

3. Wellbeing…gardens are reset-switches for the mind

We’re always being told how busy our lives are. And yet most of us do nothing about it. Many slip into the seductive and compensatory cycle of bad food, and even worse TV. Why? Because we deserve it. In fairness, we deserve a lot more; it’s just that companies haven’t found a way to package up the restorative qualities of gardens and nature. They’ve tried it for sure, look at the cosmetic labels and apparent healthy food options; they all try to tap into it. But they are nothing compared to the real thing. In fact, they shouldn’t even be compared.

Contact with plants has been shown to benefit the mind in a variety of ways; it can aid concentration, aid sleep, restore a sense of calm, alter mood, reduce the impact of mental fatigue, increase cognitive function, encourage imagination and creativity and increase the development of social skills in children.

The next time you’re feeling frazzled after a day in the office or in the house with the kids, take ten in the garden just for you. Same goes for the kids, next time they’re ‘acting up’ give them a spade instead of a remote and replace their Ipads with knee pads.

Don’t waste your money trying buy peace of mind, nature is your free healer. All you have to do is open the back door.

4. Achievement, satisfaction and self-esteem.

The simple act of gardening can have a tremendous impact on a person’s self-esteem. Even mowing the lawn has an impact. We’ve all been there before; you’ve just cut the lawn, you stand back to admire your work and a sense of satisfaction washer over you. Extending this beyond the lawn, into the borders, trees and perhaps even some raised beds, and the levels of satisfaction can rise exponentially. The acts of sowing, nurturing and harvesting plants have deep roots in our psyche. They can stimulate an increased feeling of achievement, lifting levels of self-esteem and providing an inner sense of accomplishment. These results can transcend science and spirituality promoting a greater concept of place, connection and meaning; things in short supply in modern life.

Looking to find answers? They’re right outside your back door.

5. Save you money

Two of the great things about gardening are that it’s easy and free.

Lots of people shy away from gardening, afraid they might get something wrong, but there simply is no wrong. Gardening, even for the Experts, is about experimentation and exploration. With the advent of the internet age, answers to any questions are only a few clicks away.

Now while I don’t suggest you start scaling trees with chainsaws, you can save a fortune but taking on tasks yourself. You might also start growing your own food, which can save you money, and has been shown to improve diet and nutrition beyond the food produced. Even better, you can grow your own indoor plants, plants for cut-flower arrangements and my personal favourite, gifts. Give a present that lasts this Christmas!

With a little exercise, some personal therapy and increased self-esteem, your garden needn’t be a financial drain, it can be a sustainable resource, a new contributor to the family budget.