For some, the shift away from offices and towards more time at home, spurred a romance for the garden. As of March 2021, Brits had spent £16bn on gardening over the past year.
The pandemic gave some the gift of time. Those who previously spent a long time commuting reclaimed hours of their day, 8-million were put on furlough and a further 800,000 lost their jobs. Many of us had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with.
Ordinarily, we were probably too busy to find time to garden, either at work or committed to busy social calendars. Our gardens can easily become untamed or neglected. Yet, with all this newfound time, it hardly comes as a surprise that Global Data found gardening listed as the second most popular activity in lockdown. Ahead of cooking, reading and exercising – only beaten by watching TV.
Suddenly being thrown into spending all of our time at home, we naturally tried to make this environment as nice as possible for ourselves. 15 million of us visited the RHS website in the first 100-days of lockdown, eager to learn more about gardening. A huge figure compared to a total 20 million in the entirety of 2019.
Demand grew so much, that seeds began selling out months before their seasons. Experienced gardeners no-doubt feeling frustrated by all us newbies finally discovering the therapeutic benefits of gardening.
Gardening as a Wellbeing Tool
Gardening can be a form of mindfulness, having to concentrate on the task in front of you forces you to be present and worries and fears have to take a backseat. There is also something very instinctive in spending time with plants in this way, feeling a connection to early human experiences as foragers and farmers. Connecting with nature in this way can help to soothe the mind and put things into perspective.
These benefits help to explain why so many of us, during such a high stress experience, sought to engage in gardening. In a survey by Forest Garden and Thrive, 43% of people agreed that “gardening helps my mental health”, while 36% agreed that “gardening keeps me fit and healthy”.
This awareness of health benefits is coming further into the mainstream, with more research in the area, alongside projects propping up that focus on helping people with mental health issues get into gardening. It is being recognised as something we should be promoting in a more widespread way, in the hope that wellbeing can be promoted in a healthy way that is also good for the environment and wildlife, if done in an organic chemical-free way.
In an ideal world, everyone would have access to a garden, but as discussed in our previous post – green space in the city is a privilege. Whilst it is spatially impossible for everyone to have a garden, there seem to be innovative solutions propping up to cater for urban living. For example, indoor hydroponic systems enable city-dwellers to engage in their own growing experience even if they don’t have access to an outdoor space.
Urban planning policy has begun to acknowledge this relationship and realise the importance of including greening in new developments. Updates to the New London Plan 2021 include the use of Urban Greening as a necessary requirement within sustainability statements for submission to planning. This inclusion in policy highlights the drive for biodiversity and ensures urban residents get to enjoy greener developments.
Whilst greener developments and growing indoors certainly have their benefits and enable more people to benefit from gardening in some form, there is undoubtedly a missing connection of being able to interact directly with the soil.
Community gardens and allotments can provide great alternatives to private gardens in urban settings, particularly for those living in under-funded or low-income areas. These spaces are extremely valuable in providing wellbeing benefits to residents, alongside acting as significant carbon stores to help us as the planet warms and cities become more difficult places to live.
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