by Helen Sharland
A month ago
This week’s theme for Mental Health awareness week is ’Nature’, this is obviously something you highly approve of! How has nature supported you with your mental health and mindset?
Nature and may garden have become a real safe haven for me. When I was made redundant and my self worth was rock bottom I gardened my way through it. When I was bullied by a colleague and felt trapped and alone. connecting with Mother Nature and my plants got me through a very dark 2 years. When I became a new mum and felt like I had no idea who I was anymore, my garden reminded me what I was capable of and became a place of rediscovery and rebirth for me.
Even if I can only manage 5 minutes, I get out in my garden every day to find that headspace that can be hard to come by as a busy modern woman.
I love the idea of the mindful gardening retreats you offer, how have they helped women and their mental health?Thank you. My mindful gardening retreats give women a chance to slow down and to do something that is truly for them. To show them that they are capable of so much more than the daily grind, that they can be creative and kick ass at new things, all in a supportive environment with myself and a small group of other women. They offer connection and community with likeminded souls and a chance to grow in confidence and stretch the boundaries of what they believe to be possible for them.
They come away with new skills that will help them to continue to find that headspace in their gardens even when life gets tough (which it always does).
What are your top tips for getting into gardening if you aren’t already a keen gardener (aka, have no idea what you are doing!) where do we start?
I've got 3 tips to share with you that I bang on about to all my clients.
1. Start small
Don’t try and transform your whole garden in one go, this is where the overwhelm can easily set in. Instead just choose one border or bed to grow in and choose a maximum of 5 flowers or 5 veggies to grow in your first season. Once you’ve got the hang of that you can move on to other areas of the garden.
2.Get to know your garden
The number one reason plants struggle is because they haven’t been giving the growing conditions they need to thrive. Work out where the sun falls in your garden and how much sunlight you can offer your plants, then choose plants that will love the conditions you have to offer them. This will save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run.
3. Grow what you love
There is not a better feeling when you cut a peony or a (insert your favourite flower here) from the garden that you grew yourself. Or that first bite into that vegetable that you just can’t get enough of. The feeling of accomplishment and pride will not only boost your wellbeing in the moment but that memory will stay with you forever and will be very useful when times get hard.
What do you recommend for people with very small outdoor spaces, or even no outdoor space at all, how can they create an area of ‘Zen' in that situation?
I go against popular opinion here and I classify a garden as any patch of dirt or pot of soil that has plants growing in it. So a window box 50 floors up growing an edible herb garden can bring you the same joy as a whole garden chocked full with flowers and food.
It’s all a matter of perspective and goes back to knowing the space you have available to you and growing what you love.
Choose plants that appeal to your senses, grasses that feel nice to touch, plants that attract pollinators, herbs that smell wonderful and are delicious to eat. Homegrown mint tea is divine and mint will grow anywhere!
Finally, why is what you do so effective to help slow our minds down, what is it about gardening and taking the time to do it that seems to work?
As women society tells us that if we're not busy we're unproductive. Well I say enough is enough of that bullshit. However, it can be hard to just sit and relax when our brains are constantly whirring and we're feeling guilty for not doing something when there’s a million things on our to do list. Mindful gardening helps you to stay in the present moment without having to empty your brain of your thoughts, to reach that flow state quicker, you know that state where you lose track of time and you can truly quiet your busy mind. And somehow because you are growing something, you feel less unproductive because you’re literally co-producing something with Mother Nature.
Just like our plants, we need the optimum growing conditions in which to thrive and we need a period of rest akin to Winter in Nature. So how much longer are you going to keep on trying to bloom in conditions that are keeping you stuck? You deserve a break.
Book a place on one of my mindful gardening retreats here and lets get you and your garden blooming.