The Unexpected Health Benefits of a Garden

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When someone we know is stressed or under a lot of pressure, we tell them to stop and smell the roses. It’s become cliché, but this statement actually has proof in physical and mental contexts. Just as being stuck in traffic and coming home to a messy place can raise one’s blood pressure, being outdoors or simply smelling the scent of soil, flowers, and fresh air can do wonders to improve the mood.

Reversing attention fatigue

People working in offices (even those who work from home) usually create a sterile environment they believe can help them focus better on the task at hand. The problem with this kind of set-up is that, no matter how attentive someone is to their laptop and other gadgets, it’s only a matter of time before attention fatigue sets in. That’s when people get irritable, distracted, and prone to mistakes.

Plants and gardening as stress relief are quickly becoming favorite therapies of busy people. A small potted plant, a floral arrangement, and even a view of a well-tended lawn through an office window can provide much-needed distraction to someone who puts in eight hours of work in front of a computer.

Horticulture therapy

This is a new term for the psychological effect of gardens to one’s mental state. It is slowly being introduced to various programs for stroke patients, people suffering from trauma, and even to prisoners getting ready to be released. Horticulture therapy aims to create “healing gardens” for people to work on or just wander around in. Its practitioners believe that planting, weeding, harvesting, or just puttering about with soil and plants can alleviate pain, anxiety, and depression. Gardening provides a sense of control to someone who feels as if things are happening beyond their control.

It may sound simplistic, but an experiment mentioned in the Journal of Environmental Psychology sheds empirical light on it. It involved 112 young adults experiencing stress and attention fatigue. The researchers split them into two groups – one of the groups sat in a windowless room before being allowed to explore the city; the other group sat in a room with a view of trees and flowers, and then asked to stroll through a garden. The garden group showed a remarkable improvement in blood pressure and mood upliftment – physiological changes that showed up almost instantaneously.

Planning the right rehabilitation garden

As further testimony to the rehabilitative powers of plants and gardens, several architectural schools are now studying the best kinds of gardens that will benefit different types of institutions that need them. Many park programs, school administrations, and health facilities across the nation are working with landscape architects and expert gardeners towards this purpose.  

For instance, the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute has a healing garden designed to be a therapeutic tool for its patients. The garden teaches patients how to transition back into the community by dealing with physical challenges and being stimulated by nature. It’s laid out with various ground patterns and textures to challenge their mobility skills. At the same time, their family and hospital staff members can use the garden to revitalize after long hours of caring and assisting patients. Coupled with western medicine, this holistic approach has proven effective in bringing about a sense of serenity among patients and staff.

If you want to carve out a little rehabilitation garden for yourself, it’s best to take everything into consideration, including your schedule, stress levels, allergy history (if any), and even budget. If you don’t have the time and patience for a full garden, then it’s probably not a good idea to start an ambitious outdoor project which will likely cause you even more stress. Even a small sitting area in the patio or your balcony, surrounded by low-maintenance potted plants like cacti, snake plants, and perennials, can already do wonders. A yard covered with rubber mulch can help keep gardening maintenance low, as it insulates soil and allows water and fertilizer to do their work. When indoors, you can also summon the sights, scents, and sounds of the garden with strategically-placed potted plants, aromatic flowers, and wind chimes to catch the slightest breeze.

As Dr Roger Ulrich of the Texas A&M University said:  “If researchers had proposed 20 years ago that gardens and gardening could improve medical outcomes, they would have been met with derision and skepticism. We now have studies showing that psychological and environmental factors can affect psychological systems and health status.”

Resources:

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/08/why.gardening.good/

http://extension.missouri.edu/p/EQM105F

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-193859/Proof-gardening-healthy.html

Will Rubber Mulch Hurt Plants?

plants in mulch

Rubber mulch has been around long enough to become a mainstream option for gardens and landscaping, but people are still debating about whether or not it’s actually beneficial to plants. Before investing in it, it’s perfectly fine to ask yourself if it will hurt your plants or actually enhance your garden. Let’s look at some important points regarding rubber mulch.

Rubber mulch protects plants from insects and weeds

Wood attracts termites, and other organic matter such as sand, leaves, or grass clippings can easily become homes and food to insects and rodents. Because rubber mulch is synthetic, it is unattractive to pests. It also doesn’t offer anything for weeds to thrive on – they will dehydrate before they even have a chance to wreak havoc on your plants.

It insulates the soil and regulates plant temperature

Even in very cold weather, rubber mulch can help keep your plants snug and warm down to the roots. On the other hand, it also does a good job of protecting the soil and roots from too much heat in high temperature weather.  

It enhances the potency of fertilizers and water

Since it doesn’t absorb water or fertilizers the way organic mulches do, your plants and soil get full nutrients. The soil under the mulch doesn’t dry up but stays moist for your plants to thrive on.

It can help neutralize soil with high alkalinity

Alkali soil have low infiltration capacity so it needs zinc for plants to grow. Rubber mulch can offer a solution by way of its inherent zinc content which the soil can absorb in increments. This is especially beneficial to long-rooted plants, which can get both zinc and all the fertilizer they need.

No tree is killed to manufacture rubber mulch

It might sound trite, but the very purpose of shredded rubber infill is to recycle old tires and prevent overflowing landfills after all. Trees and plants don’t have to be sacrificed to become mulching material. Recycling is the heart of rubber mulch manufacturing – an environmentally conscious move that is hard to ignore even with all the controversies surrounding it.

The bottom line is, doing careful research can help you decide if rubber mulch is the best option for your garden. More studies are being done on it, so it’s wise to keep yourself updated on the latest findings.

 

Rubber Mulch Border Options

rubber mulch border

Rubber Curbs were created to stay true to the mission of providing added safety in playgrounds. A durable product that is easy to install and use, the rubber border keeps surfacing from escaping the playground while helping to keep any foreign objects out.

Another awesome thing about it is that you can use it for other home projects. Along with rubber mulch, here are a few ideas you might want to consider for your own backyard projects in the new year.

Landscape edging

Because they will not rot or attract insects and rodents, and they require less maintenance than their organic counterparts, both rubber borders and mulch make ideal landscape edging. Rubber Curb products are interlocking and come with pre-drilled holes with hardware and caps included, so installing them is a cinch. They are available in 4 foot length by 4” height, and 6 foot lengths and 4”, 6” and 8” heights to fit any backyard specifications. Paired with brown rubber mulch, the natural-brown tone of these rubber borders will blend with any surface color.

Walkway

With resilient rubber curbs, you can save a lot of time and money on expensive paving stones and cement. Simply install them on the ground and fill up with rubber mulch for a slip-proof and attractive pathway. You can make the borders curved for an interesting design, then line them with blooms and plants for a natural look. Run some weatherproof rope lighting along the rubber edging to line up the path for safety at night.

Raised garden bed

Protect your blooms, herbs, and produce with rubber bordered raised garden beds. The stackable design of Rubber Curbs allows you to have as high a garden bed as you like before filling it up with soil and mulch. You will end up with smooth, seamless, splinter free borders that  won’t warp or get discolored as seasons change.

“French” drain

It might sound fancy, but a French drain actually serves the very practical purpose of funneling rainwater away from your garden. Too much water during a heavy storm can drown plants if it hits them directly. To address this, rubber borders can be installed in the ground like a ditch, inset with a perforated pipe, and then covered with gravel or rubber mulch. This set-up can also protect the foundation of your home as it funnels the water away to a drain, or to somewhere you can collect it for reuse.

 

Resources:

http://www.rubberecycle.com/rubber-curb.php

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/landscape-edging/