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Getting down and dirty in the garden can release serotonin, the feel-good chemical that can help our immune systems. Studies have found that mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium in soil, stimulates the release of serotonin when we work with the earth and dig up the dirt. Gardening really can help us be healthy and happy.
Grow your own
As Dunedin’s organic supermarket, Taste Nature says, “Organic food is food grown the way nature intended – without synthetic pesticides or herbicides, genetic modification, or man-made fertilisers. It prioritises the long-term health of the soil and the environment.” Home-grown food should be very nutritious, as it has been freshly picked on the day of eating.
Short on space?
If space is limited, grow your own in a container. Sunny, sheltered spaces are ideal. Deep pots with drainage holes are best, but will need more water and fertiliser than direct planting in the ground. Clay and terracotta pots absorb moisture quickly so be careful that smaller ones don’t dry out too fast. An organic potting-mix especially made for containers will give your food a good start. In the winter, water your pots once frosts have thawed and add mulch to help insulation.
There are so many choices, but beginners start with what they like to eat. What vegetables do you and your family consume most often?
Eggplants, or aubergines, can be grown in containers, just needing full sun and free-draining soil. Staking will support the height and weight of the fruit. Peppers (capsicums) also grow well in pots as long as they don’t dry out completely. Other favourites, especially when starting out, are lettuce, tomatoes, spinach and silverbeet.
Pose while you prune
Can gardening clothes be fashionable? The dichotomy of dirt and therefore wearing your oldest, scruffiest clothes to weed makes sense. However, there’s a growing trend for gardening clothes that are not only practical but look gorgeous too.
There are some lovely garments for women on the market, such as pinafores and smocks that have large pockets. Many compartments can house pruning shears, seed packets and snipped herbs, whilst some overalls have kneepad inserts perfect for weeding. The materials range from organic cotton to stretchy textiles ideal for bending down. A waist apron in a light fabric can also be a stylish solution. Lifestyle block gardeners will need different clothing and footwear to apartment-dwelling balcony planters, but there is now an outfit for everyone.
Hats can be pretty and practical, whether splurging on a genuine Panama or buying a wide-brimmed straw hat for summer dead-heading. A genuine Panama hat is hand-woven with straw from the Toquilla palm which only grows in the coastal area of Ecuador. Authentic Panamas are recognised by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as so culturally significant that, in 2012, it declared the hat an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Sadly, a fake market exists; however, there is a way of spotting a genuine Panama. At the top of the hat there should be a circular rose in the centre of the crown; this is the beginning of the hand-weaving. Fake imitations have a square or a triangle.
So this spring, why not treat yourself to a new gardening outfit and look as fabulous as your foliage. –Gill Towle