Social distancing, quarantine, isolation- all things that we as humans are not wired to do and that can have psychological effects that are difficult for most of us to deal with. We all experience anxiety at one time or another and when worry and fear take over, they can become disruptive and even debilitating. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is linked not only to worry and unease, but also to physical effects, such as fatigue, restlessness, and muscle tension.
For many, gardening provides us with a way to reset. The sensory experience it provides brings us into the present, and the nurturing of plants promotes relaxation. Since the late 1700’s, nature and gardening have long been applauded for their calming and soothing benefits. Many studies promote the benefits of gardening and green space on mental health. In the March 2017 issue of Preventative Medicine Reports, researchers in Japan and the United Kingdom shared their review of 22 case studies (many of them from the US) on gardening and health. The data reinforced the positive impact of gardening on symptoms of anxiety and stress. Since stress can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, finding ways to alleviate or manage stress can be important to minimizing and managing the effects of anxiety.
With the recent push by the CDC to practice social distancing, it is more important than ever that we find ways to keep busy and engaged in activities to help reduce worry and anxiety. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of this time and get your hands dirty while performing some basic housekeeping gardening tasks:
- Remove the last of the fallen leaves and other plant debris. Excessive leaf debris harbors disease and insects and can also prevent good water saturation to the root zone.
- Clean out the insides and atop the root crowns of shrubs and perennials.
- Cut back grasses, liriope and roses if you did not do so in the fall.
- Remove any dead, damaged or crossing branches from various trees and shrubs and deadhead perennials.
- Clear flower beds.
- Rake leaves and mulch away from garden beds to allow the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs and perennials to poke through.
- Check irrigation. Look for broken heads or inefficient spray patterns that can waste water. Also, adjust your timer so you aren’t watering your yard during the rainy season.
- Dig and divide perennials.
- Perennials such as hosta, chrysanthemum, and daylily can be divided as soon as they break dormancy. Use a sharp spade to dig and lift the clumps and break them into smaller sections with a large garden knife. Replant the divisions as soon as possible. Tip: Some perennials prefer being divided in the late summer instead of early spring. These include peony, lily, oriental poppy, and bearded iris.
- Prune houseplants that might have grown leggy over the winter. Pruning will also encourage new, and a more compact growth habit.
- Take a walk around the yard and pick up fallen limbs and debris.
- Check your lawn mower and get blades sharpened to avoid the spring rush.
- Check for insects and disease.
- Deadhead perennials by using your thumb and forefinger to pinch off spent blooms.
- Cut back perennials with brown foliage close to the ground.
- Last but not least, sit back, take a deep breath and just relax in your green space.