According to a substantial amount of health care research, there is a distinct link between nature and healing. Did you know, for example, that hospital patients with plants in their room suffer less fatique and pain? And a study of children with Attention Deficit Disorder who played in in grassy, outdoor spaces had significantly fewer symptoms than those in windowless indoor settings?
HAVE YOU HUGGED A TREE LATELY?
It’s that time of year, dear readers, when most of us consider turning over a new leaf. Lose weight, exercise more, clean the garage. Stop! Why do so many New Year’s resolutions sound like they come from a Job Jar?
How about a more gentle set of resolutions? Here’s a list of how to embrace plants in the upcoming year. And why. Well, we need plants to survive, right?
NURTURE MORE PLANTS FROM SEED
Planting a seed and watching the miracle of new life unfolding is one of life’s treasures. There are practical reasons, too: Saving money, having more varieties to choose from, getting a jump on the growing season. In an upcoming column, I’ll devote much of it to seed-starting and my favorite seed catalogs. (Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Fedco are right up there).
Now located at the Salvation Army, last I checked, the food bank distributes over 220,000 meals each year. They also accept financial contributions and assistance in sorting, packaging, and distributing food. Perhaps they need volunteers?
BE AN AMBASSADOR FOR PLANTS
Introduce at least one person in this new year to growing their own vegetable, flowers and herbs. And if you don’t know the first thing about growing stuff, offer to apprentice with someone who has a hoophouse operation. Or volunteer to help at a Farmer’s Market.
FLOWERS FOR BEES
… and other beneficial insects. Many crops--from salmonberries to zucchini--need pollinators to bear fruit. In turn, pollinators--from bumblebees to hover flies--depend on flowers as a food source.
Nothing nourishes the body and soul like tasty and healthy food you grew yourself. Whether you add a new raised bed to grow vegetables or grow some parsley, oregano, and salad greens in a halibut tub, resolve to enjoy a bigger harvest this year.
…to manage pests. Before you reach for the toxic chemicals such as Weed-and-Feed (just say no to Monsanto!), get to know the various bugs that hang out in your garden. For one, are they really pests? Or are you just creeped-out by crawly things? There’s a tolerance level to think about, too. If you DO resort to applying something, use earth-friendly products that are safe for people, pets, birds, and other creatures.
BUILD YOUR PLANTS’ DEFENSES
We get colds when our immune system is compromised. And weak plants are more likely to get attached. Weak plants are the result of too much or too little water and high-nitrogen fertilizers such as Miracle Gro. These cause plants to develop weak, juicy stems that attract more pests than plants raised using organic methods.
Here are four things YOU can do to build a strong immune system:
1. Seven hours of sleep per night will make you less likely to get sick.
2. Give and receive hugs frequently. You are 32 percent less likely to catch a cold if you hug, thanks to their stress-busting effect.
3. While the jury is out on the ideal duration, but 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise, like a brisk walk, is said to cut your risk of cold and flu in half.
3. Meditate every day. You can slash your chances of coming down with a cold by 75 percent. Your ability to focus and concentrate will improve. Plus, your blood pressure and heart rate will thank you.
BELIEVE IN PLANTS
“Plants want to survive and live,” reminds Amy Pennington, author of Apartment Gardening. “They will go to great lengths to make sure their genetic strain lives on. They don’t need constant monitoring—they just need a helper.”
TAKE BETTER CARE OF YOUR INDOOR PLANTS
It’s the least we can do for the greenery that brightens our indoor world. So if, during the dark of winter, they could use more light, install a string of white, LED Christmas lights above them.
MEMORIZE THE NAMES OF MORE WILDFLOWERS
Memorize the names oMid-June to mid-July is the best time to get out and botanize. After a while, wildflowers become familiar friends along the trails.
COLLECT KITCHEN SCRAPS
… for composting or vegetable broth-making. “Compost,” says New York Times garden columnist Leslie Land, “is the all-purpose answer to everything.” Vegetable trimmings, thrown in a pot of water, makes the best, nutrient-rich soup stock on the planet.
ALLOW NATURE TO SOOTHE AND
… by spending more time in the garden. In our hectic world it’s too easy to think of gardening as just another task on the to-do list. Take time to smell a wild rose or observe nature’s beauty in a tiny dewdrop.
Why do we behave like bees and gravitate to flowers? Or take to hiking trails to immerse ourselves in nature? And what draws us so powerfully to savor scenic overlooks? Highway engineers and national park planners acknowledge this urge.
Our ties to the natural world of plants are often subtle and unexpected. It is not merely that chlorophyll and hemoglobin bear a striking similarity in structure. Or that plants provide food, clothing, and flowers. It’s often more than that…
Charles Lewis in his landmark book, Green Nature, Human Nature, describes how our people-plant connection is important to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
“When people who garden find new friendships with neighbors, when a walk in the woods brings relief from pent-up tension, or when a potted begonia restores vitality to a hospital patient, we can begin to sense the power of these connections.”
Happy New Year, Kodiak!
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