St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Green spaces, gardening & wellbeing: Control

Mental Health Gardening

This blog is part of a series based on the infographic by Decorative Aggregates. Catch up on part one and two.

In this month’s blog we are going to be looking at how being in a garden or out in nature helps to bring a sense of control when the rest of life can feel overwhelming. With everything going on in the world at the moment it can undoubtedly feel daunting trying to think about it all and imagine what things will be like in the future. But having one small space that you can keep coming back to, such as a windowsill, a plant pot, or a garden that you can focus on can really help. It may seem small but having something in your life that you have control over can give you a sense of purpose and direction.

You can take the time to plan and decide what plants you would like to grow in your space and what you would like their purpose to be. Do you want colourful plants to look pretty, wildflowers or habitats to help pollinators, or perhaps you’d like things to eat – herbs and salad leaves grow well in windowboxes or there’s some fruit and vegetables that don’t take up much room like strawberries, beans and tomatoes. There’s no right or wrong, just whatever you want to do and which plants you think would work best in the space you have.

Whilst there are some parts of our garden that we are able to control, there is also something to be said for taking a more relaxed approach. Some people like to try and control their garden as much as possible, removing every single weed and making everything perfectly neat and tidy but it can also actually be beneficial for wildlife to leave your garden a bit messy and wild as this provides much needed habitats for things like  birds, insects, hedgehogs and frogs and toads. Alongside this, nature also has a way of not necessarily fitting in with our plans.

Pests such as slugs and snails, and bad weather in the form of storms, droughts and frost have long caused frustration among gardeners. But perhaps we can use this as a way to practice and accept that sometimes we can’t control everything we want to, especially nature, who always has a way of doing what it wants! And maybe even one step further than this we can embrace the parts of nature that might be frustrating. Having slugs and snails in our garden that nibble our vegetables might be undesirable but the presence of them in our garden may attract more desirable visitors like the hedgehogs and birds mentioned before that would happily eat them. Similarly with the weather, when there’s heavy rain and storms we can be grateful that it’s saving us a task of watering whilst also filling up our water butts, especially if this comes after a drought. If we know there is a frost coming we can prepare our plants beforehand and then enjoy the beautiful patterns the frost makes on leaves and spider webs.

Finding the right balance of controlling what you want whilst also understanding that things might not always go to plan is one of the great things about gardening. You can learn from things that didn’t work well and change something different the next time around – maybe a plant would be happier in a shadier spot or it might need less watering. Just spend as much time as possible in your garden or with the plants in your house and enjoy learning what works best for them whilst also making you happy in the process.

This piece was written by Freya Lovett who supports our Bearing Fruit group. If you are interested in joining our Ecotherapy programme you’d be very welcome.

23 July 2020 | Categories: Ecotherapy, Inspiration | Tags: control, decorative aggregates, ecotherapy, grow your own, lack of control, mental health, messy, plants, tidy, wellbeing, windowsill