Garden Blitz

“I know another word for ‘gardening,’” my 60+ year-old baby brother told me recently. Noel discovered gardening in the last 10 years. Now he enthusiastically plumbs its intricacies in far greater detail than generally interests me. I mentally did an elder-sibling eye roll and tried to prepare for the rigorous discussion that was sure to follow.
“Gardening is just another word for ‘grounding,’” he opined. Phew! No mental gymnastics required. I knew exactly what he meant.
Gardening literally grounds us when we put a shovel into the earth, kneel on the ground or press soil around plants. As we cultivate, plant, prune and weed, our too-busy minds also start to reconnect with our essential selves and our place in the natural world. When our hands are in the earth, we become physically, emotionally and spiritually grounded.
Noel and I — and everybody else who gardens — know that gardening is good for the soul. There’s also plenty of science to prove it.
Spending time in nature — whether gardening, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking or any number of other activities — helps us in so many ways. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that a 10-minute nature break boosted people’s performance on memory and attention tests by 20 percent. Researchers at the University of Illinois found children diagnosed with attention deficit disorders concentrate better and have a reduction in symptoms after spending time in nature. A Texas A&M study found hospital patients with views of trees have shorter post-operative stays. In Baltimore, researchers discovered a 10 percent increase in the tree canopy resulted in a 12 percent decrease in crime. Asthma, obesity, depression, aggression and stress have all been found to respond positively to a dose of Mother Nature.
I have a gardening friend, Annamaria Léon, who lives in one of the highest crime neighborhoods in Chicago. A force of nature herself, she is committed to transforming her community. She is teaching kids and adults to grow food in vacant lots where drug deals once took place, lining streets and public places with trees, and mentoring young people to become landscapers, nurserymen and landscape designers.
The people in her neighborhood are responding. They feel empowered by growing their own food, uplifted by the beauty they’re creating and united by the positive impact they’re making in their community. Community groups, agencies, churches and businesses are working together to build on the momentum created by one gardener who knows what happens when people are grounded to the earth.
Writing this makes me long for the spring day when my own garden will awaken and I can, once again, be grounded there. Won’t that be blitz!

Patrice Peltier lives in Spring Green and writes regularly for Wisconsin Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and The Landscape Contractor magazines. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens and Midwest Living magazines.