Healthy Garden, Body and Soul

A new study published as an online journal on the Environmental Health Perspectives website has proven that natural environments are beneficial for human physical and mental health.

With growing concern for our next generation’s lifestyle, which shows a marked decline in outdoor activity, this finding will hopefully encourage healthier living through gardening and landscape design. Potentially seeing more design projects like the High line, a garden build on a disused rail line through New York.

 

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A group of scientists; Peter James, Jaime E. Hart, Rachel F. Banay, and Francine Laden researched the connection between residential greenness and mortality. Their results concluded that higher levels of green vegetation were associated with decreased mortality, suggesting regular proximity with vegetation might help people live longer. A research associate from the Harvard Chan School stated “We are surprised to observe such strong associations between increase exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates.” Harvard research shows a 27% reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke by doing active tasks in the home or garden. This study spanned over 12 years and nearly 4000 participants. The study also found that women living in areas of vegetation had lower risk of death via cancer or respiratory disease.

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As well as the physical benefits, greenery has shown a positive effect on mental health. These findings will hopefully create new policies and guidelines requiring city planners to incorporate more space for plants when designing or regenerating urban areas.  In addition to the health benefits identified, more green spaces in cities reduce air pollution, reduce noise pollution, increase social interaction, and provide greater opportunity for physical activity.

Another study carried out at Exeter University used images and MRI scans to demonstrate that images of natural landscapes activate an area in the brain associated with calm and medatation. Where as, images of cityscapes resulted in a delay in reaction as the brain tried to process the complexity of the images. It has been suggested by Professor Michael Depledge a former environmental scientist, that people living in urban areas could be suffering in the same way as animals kept in captivity.

To read more studies about human and environmental relationships, visit http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/.

To help get you started on creating your own healthy green patch, use Shoot  to select suitable plant that you will be able to maintain with monthly care list and newsletters with gardening inspiration and tips.

 

Growing with nature

We all want to control pests and weeds in our gardens but more and more of us want to do this organically. We love healthy good food free from chemicals and we worry about the plight of bees and other beneficial insects – so let’s use natural control methods. We are all part of a bigger picture, a food chain that was in place long before pesticides and herbicides were created.

The first line of natural pest defense is healthy soil. It provides young plants a healthy start and gives them strength to withstand some pests and diseases. Adding organic matter every year will encourage organisms (soil bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc.) to break that matter down further, releasing nutrients that aid plant growth and defenses.

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Encouraging wildlife to inhabit your garden is the next plan of action. You can use techniques to encourage the species that will benefit your plants but not destroy them. For example, birds are a beautiful addition to a garden. They will help reduce pests such as caterpillars, aphids and beetles, but they will also feed on your soft fruits like raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and more. To avoid having your fruit and veg munched, keep allotment planting and natural garden planting separate. Consider including a section in your garden with enough shelter and food source so birds won’t need to eat your prized fruit. If you don’t have the space for a separate area, or your crops are still being devoured, you can protect your soft fruit with cages or netting.

Hedgehogs are superb garden-friendly animals who will happily help you with slug management, avoiding the need for poisonous slug pellets, a particular concern for those of us who have children and or pets. Slugs will chomp through leafy crops and lush ornamental plants such as Hostas and Chrysanthemums. Hedgehogs numbers are declining severely in Britain but there are some simple ways to encourage them back into our gardens where they can thrive. Hedgehogs need more than one garden to survive. If you live in a residential street with adjoining gardens, talk with your neighbours about cutting or raising fences to create a 12cm (5in) hole for hedgehogs to crawl through. After creating this ‘wildlife corridor’, plant hedges and create areas of debris, provide feeding boxes with either cat or dog food, and a water supply. Finally, if your garden has a pond, add ramps or sloping banks to give hedgehogs an escape route so they can get out of the pond easily.

If hedgehogs are not a viable in your garden, then nematodes are an excellent biological control when it comes to controlling slug and snail populations. These micro-predators are invisible to the naked eye and can be purchased at many garden centres. Harmless to our pets, plants, and ourselves, they are easily applied and watered into the soil.

Aphids (greenfly and blackfly) can smoother roses, tomatoes, cabbages and many other plants. They suck plant juices out of the leaves, buds, stems, and roots of plants. This not only damages and weakens the plant, but can potentially introduce harmful viruses. To control these winged pests, you can physical squash them, wash them away using water, or introduce plants that encourage hoverflies and ladybirds, both of which feed on aphids. Plants that encourage hoverflies and ladybirds include Tagetes tenuifolia (Signet marigold), Potentilla crantzii (Alpine cinquefoil), Achillea filipendulina (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Angelica gigas (Korean angelica), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Veronica spicata (Speedwell), Allium tanguticum (Lavender globe lily), Ajuga reptans (Bugleweed) and Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan). You can also buy live ladybirds to do the job but it is much better to entice them naturally.

For more information other troublesome pests and diseases such as Winter moth caterpillars, beetles, and red spider mite, visit our pest and disease page and build your own personal plant list to see what to look out for.

Upcoming RHS event

There are some great RHS events coming up in April and May.

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First off is the London Spring Plant Extravaganza featuring the RHS Orchid Show, held in the Lawrence Hall and Lindy Hall, London from the 1st to 2nd of April. Find out about plant growers favourites, get inspired by vast Spring planting displays and bring your purse along as you will have the chance to buy plants and sundries too.

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Next up is the first RHS Show of the year, from the 15th to 17th of April and held in Bute Park, the RHS Flower Show Cardiff  opens the year with a flurry. This year the RHS are celebrating the centenary of the birth of world-famous author Roald Dahl. The show is full of entertainment for all ages, with activities; learning to forage, building a den and visit the 58 nurseries with impressive displays of Daffodils (narcissus), Tulips (tulips) and many more .

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Then to top it all off, we have the excitement and suspense of the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show from the 24th to 28 of May. A great place to see new plants, trends, style and gain inspiration for your own garden design.  We will be updating articles and blogs from the show gardens, Artisan gardens and Fresh Gardens, so watch this space.

And remember if you do visit any of these events, please email or tweet us your photos.