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gardening for stress

By Jolene Renfro

Over the past year or two our senses have been bombarded with news of a pandemic, shortages of food and other necessities, crazed people shooting masses of people who are simiply going about their lives, unprovoked war in Ukraine, inflation eating into our pocketbooks, tornadoes and other severe weather. Because of all these things, when we wake up in the morning we wonder “what awful thing is going to happen today?” not “what wonderful thing is going to happen today?”  We are anxious and under more stress than a body should have to deal with. 

These things have always happened --- The four horsemen as the Bible says--- but our problem in today’s world is the immediate and continued reminders of all of these awful things by the media (who, by the way, are just doing their job in getting the news to the public).

What can we do to take some of the stress away (besides turning off the news and throwing away our cell phones)?  We can garden.  Think about it, fresh air, sunshine, gentle exercise –all of which work together to remove the harmful chemicals that accumulate in the body in times of turmoil. Here are a few benefits of gardening:

1.Decreasing symptoms of depression by offering a sense of accomplishment.

2.Lowering the stress hormone cortisol (this lowers feeling of stress and anxiety, therefore lowers blood pressure).

3.Improving optimism and feelings of self-esteem that results from tending to living things and watching them grow due to your efforts.

4.Improved concentration and “being in the moment”.

5. Release of endorphins –the “feel good hormones” by exercising.

6. Boosting vitamin D production in the body from mild sun exposure, which improves the immune system and produces higher levels of serotonin.

7.Better sleep resulting from an improved wake-sleep cycle and the fatigue of gentle exercise.

8. Encouraging healthy eating and possible savings on your grocery bill by growing your own food.

We are fortunate to live in one of the few counties in Texas not experiencing some degree of drought, so that what we plant will stand a decent chance of surviving the Texas summer with only an occasional watering.

If you want to begin a garden, here are vegetables that can be planted in June:  corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, squash, watermelons, and tomatoes. Buying sets that are already stated, rather than planting seeds, will jump start your efforts. 

How about adding some colorful flowers to your garden? June is a good time to plant zinnias, cosmos, sunflower, penta, gomphrena, portulaca , gaillardia, salvia, tropical and semi-tropical plants, canna, crinum lilies and caladiums, just to name a few.

Herbs that can take the summer sun are basil, oregano, rosemary, and lemon balm. Six hours of morning sun and some watering will keep them going for you all summer.

Shrubs can be planted in June, but will need lots of mulch and water to give them the opportunity to grow and healthy root system.  You may want to wait until the cooler fall weather to put in trees and shrubs.

Do yourself a favor by planting something. It will literally make you glad that you did.

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