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Archive for the ‘horticultural therapy’ Category

As the excitement mounts with spring approaching, we have been thinking about how happy gardening makes us feel. It seems that we’re not the only ones to have noticed this……

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There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna Rion

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden. ~John Erskine

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. ~Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931

Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed. ~Lewis Gannit

There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. ~Alfred Austin

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.– Abraham Lincoln

To dig one’s own spade into one’s own earth! Has life anything better to offer than this?– Beverley Nichols

The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world. — Vita Sackville-West

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden– Minnie Aumonier

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.– Francis Bacon

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. – Ghandi

All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest” – Douglas Jerrold

“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than Emperor’s.”– Mary Cantwell

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise. -Henry Mitchell

Where flowers bloom so does hope. -Lady Bird Johnson

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We have noticed that the favourite past on this blog by far is entitled Naked Gardeners. In the naive hope that people are interested in this subject as a form of personal freedom and liberation, we have scoured the internet to provide you with more information.

May 3 2008 sees the fourth annual ‘World Naked Gardening Day’. The website for the event explains the phenomena:

“Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us–even if only for those few sunkissed minutes–that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.”

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This picture is not of us and our fellow plot holders. It could be though, except for the fact that we’re too shy and I don’t want to see beaners bits and she don’t want to see mine. Also I think the local authorities might frown upon it. So we’re going to stick with water butts. All joking aside, I admire the attitude of the naked gardening movement, freedom and self-expression is always to be applauded.

So for those genuinely interested in taking part, here is a discussion of legal issues relating to being naked in your garden – Naturism and The Law – In Your Garden.

Finally, we just want to say be careful out there – plants that spring to mind are holly, berberis, pyracantha, hawthorn – I suspect a full risk assessment would be needed! Have fun!


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This is my story of severe effexor withdrawal. I have already written much about how I started to take effexor and the consequences of this. Links for the first ‘chapters’ can be found on the ‘mental health story page’.

After a three month withdrawal from effexor I became acutely psychotic and manic and ended up being sectioned under the mental health act. This particular blog details the therapeutic interventions that I had with staff and how they made me feel.

I did not take medication during this hospital stay and as my word and my story will eventually bare out – all of my symptoms were caused by effexor withdrawal. It just took a bit of time and struggle to get this rectified.

I am currently 10mg shy of being effexor free and would consider my story to be one of success.

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I met the consultant in the dining room, a room often used when a patient is being ‘seen’ – by doctors, nurses, family, and solicitors – everyone trying to find out what’s gone wrong. The ‘dining’ room was beautifully constructed for its primary aim and ambiance of being observed, with windows totally covering the wall of the room, which was shared with the corridor of the ward. Enough to make anyone feel paranoid or ill at ease. So all meetings that took place were not only overseen by staff but provided entertainment for patients, as we looked in on each other trying to work out who was who and what was going on, some would shout in or bang on the reinforced glass. This was more of boredom and frustration than ‘craziness’, something new to look at, a break in the monotony. It wasn’t until I neared the end of my stay that I learned there were private meeting rooms – family rooms – this privilege was never offered to me.

I really liked my psychiatrist at the unit. He had a warm and non-condescending disposition, something I rate highly in a person. I never once felt threatened or bullied by him and he did not seem hell bent on telling me I was ‘wrong’. He reminded me of a teddy bear, he was a portly chap, had a semi-scruffy beard and attire – he looked very cuddly basically. l felt safe with him. I explained that I had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years but that in the last few years I had really made progress through yoga, healthier eating, gardening and so on, that my experience of life had been getting easier and happier. He explained that he was a great believer in so called ‘alternative’ approaches and that he knew the things I was describing greatly improved quality of life/ ‘symptoms of mental illness’. I had no explanation as to how I had ended up in this state, why I had felt the need to run around naked and had been acting so out of character. He smiled and listened, after a while he told me that we would meet again and that I should try and get involved with some of the ward’s activities. He made no mention of diagnoses or medications. He was getting to know me first. He felt on my side and I felt validated.

The graffiti on the wall of the smoke room said different ‘DR TEDDY IS A MURDERER’, aptly written in blood red. Similar protests were daubed all over the room, charting months of people expelling their fear and rage over dirty walls, as they sought sanctuary in the smoke room.

But like I say, I liked Dr Teddy and took up his advice. I attended the group meetings held every morning for a few days. On my first day I was allocated to the garden group, which I was obviously pretty pleased with. I followed everyone through corridors and waited patiently at each locked door – ‘open seasame’. I finally got out in the fresh air and I think there were words of encouragement to ‘stretch my legs’ and the like from the staff. I looked around the slabbed yard, peppered with cigarette butts, in disbelief. There were a tiny child’s handful of small flower beds with absolutely nothing in them, not even a stray weed. A dog being let out the back to relief itself. Desolate surroundings, but not alone. The yard was dominated by the high walls of the clinic, each ward having a corridor looking down onto the ‘garden’.

I felt uncomfortable, enraged, patronized and confused more than ever as my addled mind continued incessantly telling me this was all a sick joke at my expense. It seemed so cruel, and the clinic and its sinister agenda became darker and darker in my mind. I went back inside as soon as I could – I was not playing for their amusement.

The next activity of the morning was to shoot some pool – a game where my attention span lasts for the time it takes for me to start blatantly losing! I humored the staff as they encouraged me to play and tried to chat to me – these two oozed sympathy which although unpalatable went down a lot smoother than the general ‘don’t bother me nutter’ attitude or the ‘because you’re psychotic you are a moron’ stance. I smiled and nodded in all the right places, still desperately trying to fathom out what the point all of this was.

I also attended ‘art therapy’ which was a most depressing and sinister experience. The felt tips and glitter and the pots of half-dried pva glue, oh and the stencils of bunny rabbits. Jeez, how did it all come to this. Then we were all asked to make a valentines day card, for goodness sake. I quickly rushed up a design, some trees, a river, a bit of glitter to jazz it up, ta da. We then had to ‘share’ – why we chose our design and how valentines day made us feel. And people started spilling, these people had seen some scary stuff – guns, drugs, knifes, open arm combat. I began to shake. It came to my turn – I told the therapist that I believed that it should be valentines day everyday and that you shouldn’t need to be told to be thoughtful to your loved ones. How very pious of me! I meant it as a some sort of lofty statement about the ills of society – in other words valentines day is bull. Overly cynical for some’s taste perhaps. However, with a little jiggery pokery on her part she explained to me and the group that a lot of people find valentines day difficult and perhaps have felt loss or have an increased awareness that they are alone, she looked at me smiling kindly, in an all knowing way. I feebly nodded in agreement, my eye lids bulging, struggling to hold onto the salt water in case a humiliating water fall began. I felt miserable, I knew I was beat, there is no room for discussion, there are templates that one must simply fit into. The added problem was that there really were no issues going on in my life that would explain what had happened to me. Except for the effexor withdrawal of course.

Ok, so art therapy is out, as well as gardening.

Next day, I was allocated to cook. I was told to write down the ingredients for a meal that I would cook at home. The staff would then go and out and purchase the ingredients as I was not allowed any leave, and I would then cook it. Simple. Unfortunately I got a little bit confused as to the purpose of the exercise. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to see me cook and when they do see me cook, what exactly will they then know. However I worked out that I didn’t want to ‘fail’ the test, so I cooked up a spaghetti bolognase from scratch whilst paying full attention to health and safety/food hygiene regulations. As I began I said to them to clarify once again “what you just want me to cook and you’re just going to watch me. Do I have to talk to you, tell you what I’m doing” – “no, not if you don’t want to”. It made no sense to me at all but I cooked and they watched. After a while they gave up trying to elicit conversation from me. I was always polite in my response but never giving. So they chattered to themselves, about where they lived, their partners, where they liked to drink. I listened and saw very clearly how I must seem – a disheveled crazy person, who clearly needed to reach out for help. These chinks of reality were far and few between, Effexor withdrawal done wrong is a tenacious beast and so I continued to throw obscene amounts of garlic into my signature dish to ward off energy vampires. The smell of garlic lingered in the ward for a good few days and was a source of comfort to me, as the relentless attacks from seen and unseen beings continued.

As you can see I was still really not getting it – that I was in a hospital and was acutely not right in the head. This incidentally, I find to be as accurately descriptive diagnosis as any other.

One particular night, a week or so into my stay, I became so petrified and once again those little chinks of clarity whizzed through my brain, so I decided to talk to a member of staff about what had been happening to me. It was around 4am and I had been up all night, warding off spiritual attacks from another patient who was trying to destroy me. There was a lot of telepathic noise in my head that evening. I thought I heard her reporting me to the night staff, asking them if they knew anything about spiritual warfare. I panicked and thought I would be punished, then another part of me was saying ‘how long can I go on like this, I’ve gotta trust someone’. So I knocked on the office door and asked if I could speak to someone. I zoned in on the guy wearing Christian cross earrings, latching onto an overt sign that this was not an evil baddie. He agreed to talk to me in the dining room. He commanded me to stop crying – or how else are we going to have an adult conversation. Interesting position to take. But he wasn’t confident, he kept backing away from me, I noticed how he was keeping tables and chairs between us as I edged toward him, desperately hoping that he could help me. Realising that he was scared of me I implored him to see that I wasn’t going to hurt him. I stopped trying to choke and gulp back the panic attack, remembering that it never works to try and stuff them back inside. His chastisement reminded me to focus on slowing my breathing – good old yoga. As I’ve tried to explain throughout my writings, I really was well practiced at calming myself down, which is why I was withdrawing from the effexor, albeit way too quickly.

Anyways, we finally sat down and the floodgates opened. He asked me how I had ended up in here. So I told him, about my boss and my yoga teacher stalking me, about my television and computer communicating with me, about the free masons. On and on, purging my self, telling him my big secret. He told me that it sounds like I have been having delusions and that I’m not very well and that they can give me tablets to help. But I could not bare to hear this and did not even contemplate for a second that he might be right. I rather rudely retorted that if I’m going to talk to anyone about medication then it will be a doctor not a nurse – it was not his place to prescribe to me. I don’t trust this guy one little bit SLAM. I retreated back inside myself, resolving never to open up to ‘them’ again. Our conversation drew to an end when he explained that he was going off shift and that he could sit and listen to me all day, its so interesting. Then he bounced out the room, I was shocked how this bloke could find my personal pain intellectually stimulating, a clinical conundrum pure and simple, no human touch at all. I was looking for kindness and compassion, but apparently it doesn’t come in tablet form.

Over the next of couple of days I mulled over my predicament – that I had outed myself – that they had something on me. I dismissed trying to tell dr teddy that I had said no such thing to the man, realising this would get me in deeper. So the next time I saw the doc I told him that yes at that time I had thought the TV was communicating with me, but of course this was a problem with my perception at that time. He smiled at me, I was pleased that he was pleased with my response. No further questioning. Phew, my secret can be re-buried.

And so life on the ward went on and I got myself into a little routine, otherwise known as institutionalization. I managed to keep my head down – away from fights, therapy and one to ones. Just occasional chats with Dr teddy. Biding my time until my mental health review tribunal…

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Like most of the country we have lost lots of tomatoes this year due to blight.

The done thing to do is burn the effected plants and tomatoes. Its heartbreaking picking hand-fulls of blighted tomatoes and burning them. Surely we can use the manky mushy toms for something.

What about this?………

Now that is much more fun that burning the buggers.

Horticultural therapy at its best!

Beaner

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We have a mate called Sue.

Yesterday she experienced a life changing vegetable moment up our plot…

Hang on, let me explain….

Sue is always enthusiastic about pretty flowers and was happy to hear that actually her lawn wildflower meadow is very much in vogue.

Sue is a great friend – she always heartily enthuses with us when we retell our gardening adventures.

Sue is also very annoying! She is one of those green-fingered types! The plants in her garden alway thrive with little effort and her hanging baskets are to die for! She is a natural, intuitive gardener – she sticks things in the durt and they grow!

However we are talking about a lady who a few years back was given strawberry and tomato plants, but didn’t eat the fruit. The reason being that she didn’t realise that they were real strawberries and tomatoes. Upon realising her error she rectified the situation immediately, she couldn’t believe the lovely tastiness of her produce.

Sue is more of a low-maintenance kinda gardener so her veg growing career was short…

So fast forward to yesterday – Sue goes up to our allotment for the first time. She was chastising herself later that day for leaving it so long. We could see the look in her eyes – that of an allotment junkie in the making…

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She ambled along the wood chip paths, with Beener enthusiastically giving her the ‘grand tour’. Sue stood there, hands on hips, and in true Bristolian style said ‘never! that ain’t never your allotment’ .

We are also very lucky to have breath taking views of Bristol and the plots are near to woodland- a splodge of country-side in the city..

Sue could instantly see why we spend so much time at our beloved allotment.

Then crunch time, Beener approached the mange tout, plucked one off the plant and eagerly tried it. Sue looked slightly horrified, as if Beener was eating raw sewerage. Sue knew it was inevitable and her heart starting thumping, Beener thrust a mange tout toward her.

Now Sue was in a dilemma. Her body and mind screaming “I aint beeping eating that”. But like I said Sue is a great friend and put aside her misgivings for the sake of her grinning friend.

The rest of the story, like a crap film, is obvious – she beeping loved it. Sue declared that they had a lovely nutty taste -  she is partial to a bag of assorted nuts (always with raisins). She then progressed to runner beans and pledged that she will come back -often. She snapped away with her phone camera, wanting to show the plot to her family and friends.

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She felt good and in turn so did we – a crescendo of giggling, smiles and excited chatter floating away from our plot – allotments/gardening/veg growing tends to have that affect on people don’t you think?

So here’s to Sue – she never fails to make us laugh or amaze us… and we really hope that she spends more time up the allotment with us – from the look on her face I think she will. And we will keep plying her with succulent fresh veg, until like us, she can no longer live without it.

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We have both recently come back from our holidays…. A group of us went to Pontins …. Being away from our allotment made us feel adrift and a little bit pukey….

After spending a week in Pontins we were absolutely gasping to stick our hands in the ‘durt’ and touch something that didn’t feel cheap, vulgar and nasty. It was very noisy and there were too many random objects which beeped or flashed at you without provocation or warning…..

Beener has just asked me to add this free-word association which has just tumbled out of her- dirty wartime cell blocks, smelly, cheesy entertainment, lots of drunks, crap.

No fresh vegetables on site or within a radius of ten miles….

Goin round and round in our heads ‘I am a cheeky girl; Shut up – just shut up, shut up; pump it louder and reach for the stars’ – For god sake Pontins’ put a different compilation mini disc on – damn you….. ‘

Most unsettling…

But ‘each to their own’ and Keener did get pulled up to do a dance competiton by a cruel blue coat and came second – begrudgingly showing the crowd some of her unique moves… – so the holiday wasn’t without humour…

The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves – it was the adults in our group with the dead look in their eyes….

So if you want to book a Pontins break you can find your own flipping link….

Upon return to the plot as you might expect everything had gotten a whole lot bigger. Sadly some sort of slug orgy had resulted in 50 lettuce casualties. A solitary lettuce remaining – shunned by those fat, slimey, ugly, hedonistic molluscs. But why? – those beasts are insatiable! So we will let the lettuce go to seed and save them to sow next year. When we are ready to go into mass commercial production of our miraculous lettuce we’ll let you know!

We continue to abstain from slug pellets. The egg shells are putting up a good fight, but some slugs prevail and our drenched plot is a perfect habitat for them…. But we feel strong in tackling our addiction – we have not dropped a single pellet in anger… Oyster shells, hair (any species or colour), beer traps, sharp grit, ash, copper rings and so on – plenty of methods left to try… I guess I have overcome my addiction by accepting that you just can’t free the world of slugs and of course you wouldn’t want to as they are part of nature’s rich tapestry of interconnections…

But I still hate them – they make my skin crawl and I think they are greedy…

It felt like home as we wondered around our sanctuary, with the sweet pea scent drifting over the plot (except for when it was chucking it down).. A stint of frantic weeding followed – brambles, bind weed and thistles. No gloves, straight in, this was bare-knuckle weeding…. If you bury down into the earth with your fingers and pull on the stem right at the bottom, our soil allows us to get quite a bit of root out – and you don’t get hurt, much to onlookers disbelief. We will dig out the roots of the weeds that dare to survive in the autumn – when we have time!

I then decided that I had had enough of the overgrown paths ruining the look of our plot. So I used hand shears to clear the paths – on my hands and knees the good old fashioned way – as I chopped up and slashed the Pontins experience out of my head.

And then a bit of kicking back and relaxing, grabbing any miniscule drop of sunshine we can….

We have been feasting and gorging since we got back – runner beans, swiss chard, broad beans, potatoes, dwarf french beans, backcurrant (alright – from the hedgerows), mange tout, cabbage, courgette, brocolli, onions and garlic…

So all in all things continue to go well…..

Keener

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The word on the plot is that our potatoes have blight…

Whilst its true to say that our potatoes look less than happy, we’re not convinced its blight….

We have discussed, we have googled and pawed over books…

The more I try to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with our potatoes, the more unclear it becomes… magnesium deficiency, poor soil preparation, rust – who knows??

Some say blight will devastate your plot quickly, others say this is not true… Some say a halo around the marks is the give-away sign, others blackened stems…

It sometimes seems that everyone’s an expert, I wonder how they can be so certain without laboratory tests.. It seems people are very quick to cry blight, blight, blight, panic, panic, panic….

Now of course I would never get caught up in scare mongering and catastrophisation, but I have taken it upon myself to become armed and be part of ‘Blight watch’ .

These guys have scouts out surveying potato fields and give email and SMS alerts for infection risk in your area.. If like me you don’t shy away from information over-load…you can sign up here at the British Potato industry web-site,

So, we dug up a row of potatoes yesterday, and whilst it was certainly not a bumper harvest, there were enough for several scrummy meals…. Now some of the tubers were kinda mushy looking and we looked at each other with dread ‘sound the horn – blight attack, blight attack!’. We giggled, embarrassed at the thought of conversations we have had with other plot holders – ‘no that ain’t blight’ we had confidently told them.

So I stuck my nose right into the squishy mess, no foul smell. ‘Stand down men, its not blight’. As I squished the tuber about in my fingers, looking for further clues, I spotted some small whiteish worms/grubs with a line of red dots down each side.

Oh for goodness sake what the hell are they…. Very pretty but ungoogleable it seems…

Anyways, as of 4pm GMT I am totally 100%, unequivocally sure that all our potato problems are due to scab….

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Wilko’s has an excellent sale on seeds, 75% off!

We went yesterday, it must be a popular place with allotment folk.  We saw 3 other plot holders hanging about in wilkos whilst we were there.

They also have 75% off of seed trays.  One of the other plot holders said soon they knock all the gardening stuff down to 75% off.

We bought :  Sweet Pea Blue Velvet  44p was 1.79

                        Sweetcorn miracle  37p was 1.49

                        Exhibition onions  81p was 3.25

                        Echinecea 54p was 2.19

                        Calendula   39p was 1.59

                        Courgette   62p was 2.49

We are off up  there again today as we didnt know until we got to the till that there was 75% off.       

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I just read keeners post Magic beans…..

Thats correct they are magical beans, they must be to have survived the sudden invasion of dreaded blackfly we have encountered.  Although im now pleased to say ladybirds are out in force on our plot feeding away doing there job. The thing is it seems, as the ladybirds are munching the blackfly the ants are just bringing back more and loading the plants back up with them quicker than those little ladies can eat them.

Mother nature is a wonderful thing. I find it amazing sat watching the broad and runner beans alive with various insects all feasting on each other, using or helping each other out in some way.

Anyways im drifting a bit…..Back to keeners post.

Is our allotment rubbish? No it blinking isnt!

Its easy to get caught up in the competative crap that I have learned that can go on in allotmenteering.  I wont go on about this in detail, as I really do like all of my fellow plot holders.  But It can be a little off putting when you got someone constantly compairing your plot with theres. Who has the nicest soil, who has the longest beens, oh god I could go on but as I said I like the other plot holders at our allotment, dont want to go pointing fingers and offending people.  Sometimes you just wanna get up the allotment and chill out, have a little walk around, look at your insect city on your beans maybe do a bit of weeding and just relax.  Its hard to relax sometimes though when you feel like your being watched and judged by  fellow plot holders.

What I try to remember when I look our allotment is we have only had it 6 months, in that time we have transformed a massive 110ft of brambles and solid compacted clay into a workable plot, roughly 3/4 full now.  We still have so much to do but its slowly taking shape. It is a big plot we have, having it 3/4 full with lovely veg 6 months after getting it keener is pretty damn good going if you ask me.

Yes we have delicious broads beans, but your forgetting the lovely ripe white currants we both eagerly scoffed, the blackcurrants, the strawberries from the greenhouse, the spinach and not forgetting all the lovely herbs ready for the picking including sage, purple sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, chives, lemon balm, spearamint, peppermint, orange mint and the wonderful (but small) chamomile lawn.

As for the veg we have growing, we have brocoli, cabbage, runners, broads, peas, mange tout, swiss chard, rocket, lettuce, courgette, pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsnip, potatoes, asparagus, carrotts, melons, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, cranberries, and an apple.

Now that to me does not sound like a rubbish allotment keener!

Besides all the veg we have 2 lovely mixed borders contaning herbacious plants, bulbs, and bedding. We are also trying companion planting using marigolds, nastursiams garlic dotted amongst the veg. 

So keener for 2 people in 6 months I reckon its safe to say NO our allotment is not  rubbish.

Im going to stick some photo’s on here tuesday for you all to see, so hopefully you too can reassure keener our allotment is not rubbish.

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I love this research study, published in the ‘International Society for Horticultural Science‘.

It is entitled Horticulture, well-being, and mental health: from intuitions to evidence.

From a review of the literature this article shows that many of society’s ills could be reduced by more people picking up a shovel.

Kuo writes:

“Can horticulture contribute significantly to human well-being and mental health? Increasing evidence suggests it can. This review presents findings from scientific studies with diverse populations, including residents of poor inner city neighborhoods, ecological restoration volunteers, and children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Moreover, the findings come from studies of diverse outcomes, including lower rates of violent and property crime, lower incidence of aggression, greater ability to cope with poverty, better life functioning, greater life satisfaction, reduced attention deficit symptoms, greater strength of community, and others.”

Fair enough!

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