Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2007

Garden chores can ease stress

July 19, 2007


The ride home was uneventful as I pondered the day's stressful activities. At home, with available time shortened by long work hours, I was determined to rid my yard and garden of all its problems. With frustration, I was going to do it all at once. Ignoring the family, and only having a short time to work, I started with the hoe, and mower, and sprayer, and sprinklers, and shears, and spade. In the morning I would wake up with sore muscles, my back out of joint, sunburn on virgin areas and more stress than what I started with. Gardening is a way to reduce stress and get exercise, but not in the manner or mindset that I took it on.

If gardening is seen as an event, a thing to do, a thing to plan in our schedule, another chore, it is stressful. If we view it as activity - to beautify and enjoy the nature around us - it becomes a stress reliever, not to mention a great form of exercise. Even if you do nothing but walk in your yard, walk your block, enjoy what others have created, smell one flower, pull one weed (or whatever was out of place), it can be relaxing.

Approach it with a plan. Do not start with the attitude "I will get it all done today." You will not; there is too much, and that is OK. Some pointers for making your garden a relaxing endeavor would be these:

¢ You cannot get it all done at once. You are not superhuman know this.

¢ Make a short "to do" list and stick to it. Spread it out over weekends, after work, on holidays or after vacation.

¢ Prioritize this list based on what the plants need versus what you deem critical. The garden beauty (or survival) is more dependent on horticultural requirements than your time.

¢ Enjoy what you are doing and do what you enjoy.

¢ After a period of work, stop and rest. Enjoy a cool drink.

¢ Our efforts can be concentrated on a plant, a vegetable variety, a flower bed, a patio planter or a garden trellis. The amount of stress relief is the same.

¢ Listen to music while gardening

¢ Teach children not only how to garden, but how enjoyable gardening is.

Gardening is a form of exercise, not unlike running, biking or walking. A runner would not start without stretching, a bicyclist without out a warmup or a walker without preparation to go the distance. Gardeners will get up and down, reach and pull, and stretch and lift more times than many sports enthusiasts. Take some time to stretch and limber up before you start in. Avoid the morning soreness, which only discourages the next attempt. Remember, we have the opportunity to stop anytime we want, to smell, touch, feel and taste what is around us.

Even if you do not have a garden, there are opportunities to work with nature. A simple pot or two on a balcony filled with flowers, a tomato plant or herbs bring some of the stress relief and exercise. If you do have space, start small. It can grow with your enjoyment. Start simple - plant marigolds, not roses. The complexity grows with your skill and ability. Set up a small bench so you can sit and enjoy the nature you have started.

If all else fails, find a garden elsewhere. Walk through already prepared public spaces. Take your time, look around and be aware of your surroundings. Enjoy the birds and bees. Soon the monarch butterflies will be passing through our area.

Mother nature is a great stress reliever if we give her the chance. Let gardening be what it is meant to be. Now back to dealing with those pesky rabbits.

- Stan Ring is the horticulture program assistant at K-State Research and Extension Douglas County. He can be reached at 843-7058 or


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