Gardening is a fun and relaxing way to get in touch with nature and also has plenty of health benefits. They say gardening is an activity that’s good for both the mind and body and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Plus, you get to eat the delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs that you grow.
They say less than 3 hours of moderate activity each week can help reduce the risk of many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
They say your brain also benefits from time spent in the garden. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine is an effective way to boost your mood and de-stress. In fact, they say gardening has shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of depression, and can allow you to focus on an activity that will bring you joy.
What a load of old tosh
Gardening is hard work. Oh yes, grow your own veggies – if you can do battle with everything that is trying to wither or eat your produce before you get to it. Have fun selecting plants – but you need an expert to guide you in the direction you need to go to plant stuff suitable for your soil, and gardening in Portugal really means picking stuff for your climate – there can be few countries with such a diverse climate difference per square kilometre.
Getting the Right Tools
Get a pick-axe would be a first suggestion for hard, sun-baked soil. Or an adze - do you even know what this is? It’s defined as ‘a heavy hand tool with a steel cutting blade attached at right angles to a wooden handle, used for dressing timber’. I have seen it used in Portugal just to make a hole in the ground or loosen up stubborn weeds, let alone as a wood-cutting tool. And keeping your tools nice is an art as well to be honest, as when you have finished a couple of hours in the garden all you want is a cold beer and some shade, not fussing with oil on blades, or sharpening secateurs.
Getting togged up first
They say that before you even head out the door, you should make sure you that you should wear the proper gear for a safe gardening experience. Light, long-sleeved shirts and trousers and a hat for protection from the sun, and of course you need to slather on sunscreen. Wearing gardening gloves is a must to keep yourself safe when pulling weeds and carrying out other tasks that could hurt your hands. And don’t forget to wear mosquito repellent. Then add sweat for a slimy, slippery and decidedly unpleasant experience.
Elephant in the Garden
You have no doubt heard the term ‘elephant in the room’ to mean that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about. This can be applied to owning a garden – everyone knows it’s there; it has to be addressed, but nobody wants to do anything about it. Every member of the household will blindly battle through the thigh-high weeds on the way to the gate rather than ‘tog up’ and pull them up. And they will slide the nice clean lettuce in a plastic bag into the fridge rather than go and select something edible from the shrivelled offerings outside. Tomatoes anyone? Forget it - they need constant watering and the daily removal of those suckers, as they grow like triffids while you are out at work or looking the other way.
Oh dear, I sound a right crusty old curmudgeon, turning into the gruff, grey-haired person who refuses to hand out candy at Halloween or is the grumpy old lady waiting in the queue, rolling her eyes when someone ahead of me is searching for the right change and holding everyone up.
But yes I agree, gardening is good for you. Taking a walk round the garden centre does it for me. No sweat or stress there.
Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man.