Researchers at the University of York have found that gardening can have positive a positive effect on mental health issues (https://tinyurl.com/y9lwabtj). The researchers undertook a systematic review of previous scholarship on gardening as a mental health intervention, and found that the studies all reported a positive outcome. These positive outcomes included reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

There are many reasons why gardening can lift your mood. The Stress Institute (an organization that distributes information about mindful living) points to a number of factors. For example, they note that sunlight contains vitamin D, a nutrient which boosts mood and helps you to relax. They also say that exercising and connecting to all five of your senses in the garden can be an opportunity to disconnect from stress. Letting long grass trail through your fingers, listening to the birds singing, and tasting freshly picked vegetables would certainly boost anyone’s mood.

But if you live in an apartment, or in a house without a garden, it can be difficult to put this research into action. Here we offer three tips to help you get out in the garden and start reaping the positive benefits, no matter where you live. 

Herbs

Most herbs are very easy to grow and can be grown in containers on your windowsill. You don’t have to buy the most expensive containers, as long as it’s deep enough and has holes in the bottom for drainage (you’ll need to sit the container on a tray), you’re good to go. The easiest herbs to grow are basil, chives, and mint. Rosemary can take up to eight weeks to germinate, so it’s not the best if you’re looking for fast results. 

Succulents

Succulents are plants that usually have quite thick and fleshy leaves. They retain lots of water, so they are best suited to being grown indoors in a sunny spot. They won’t do well outdoors, because they’re sensitive to cold temperatures, and don’t like too much water. Although succulents can be a bit temperamental, they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes so you are sure to find one that you like. You can often find them in the supermarket or a home improvement store. They can find their way onto the discount shelves because supermarkets sometimes over-water them, and they start to drop leaves. Be careful if you are transferring them from small containers into larger ones – they sometimes don’t like the shock of new soil. You should remove as much of the existing dirt from the roots as you can, and then re-pot in a good quality cactus compost. Water only occasionally, and wipe any white residue from the leaves with a damp cloth.

Sprouted seeds and cress

Sprouted seeds are packed with nutrients, including B vitamins, fiber, and protein. They’re also very easy to grow, and you don’t need any special equipment (just the seeds and a large empty jar). Place a handful of seeds in the bottom of a jar, and soak overnight. The following day, drain away the water and rinse the seeds. Cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of thin fabric and an elastic band, and keep them in a warm place. All you need to do is rinse the seeds each day and recover with the fabric top. Within a few days, you should have some delicious sprouted seeds to add to a salad. You can buy a variety of seeds for sprouting online, and the most popular and easy to sprout are Alfalfa. 

Even without a garden or space on a balcony, you can still try your hand at gardening. Why not give it a go?