Plant for your mental health

In these uncertain times, it is easy to feel a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. The world is changing in ways we can hardly predict. For our own health, it is important to take a step back from the doom and gloom of the news and focus on the things we can actually have an impact on.

Such as sowing a seed, and caring for a plant.

Plant for your life

And it’s not just because a plant is a small, grateful thing with relatively simple needs, such as sunlight, moisture and nutrients.

Plants help improve our mental health in many different ways, such as stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-esteem. Not just that, scientists have found microbes in the soil that excrete what to us are natural anti-depressants, Tell that to the next person who complains that you’ve got soil stuck under your nails!

Victory gardens

As grocery shelves run on empty and migrant workers might get stuck in quarantine (if they are allowed to travel at all), might put this year’s crops at risk too. As during world war I and II, we are seeing renewed interest in the victory garden, where community members are encouraged to plant edible foods on available arable land.

If you don’t have any land yourself, perhaps a neighbor does? Or maybe you have an unused lot near you. There is also a whole lot you can grow in pots and containers inside your apartment!

Angela petitioned twitter recently, and there was a roaring “yes” from a lot of people who are planning on planting larger gardens this year.

We are a bit behind most in our sub-arctic climate here in Norway, but I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, flowers and some other seeds for germination inside just a few days ago. It might be a roaring fail. But there is something incredibly encouraging about doing something, anything to build our collective resilience.

From seed to joy

Ever since I was a child, one of my favorite past times was stuffing random seeds in pots and seeing what would grow. I can proudly say I got this from my grandmother, who grew tiny orange trees from a fruit she ate, way before homegrown avocado trees were a thing.

Some things failed (you can’t grow garlic inside, it needs a cold period!), and other things worked (strawberry patch!).

To this day, sprouting seeds just brings me so much satisfaction. We save seed from our tomatoes to grow next year, and from the bell peppers we buy in the store to plant in the spring.

Preserving biodiversity

Just this spring, my husband entered me into the Norwegian Seed Saving community! A group I had admired for years but somehow kept telling myself I’d join “next year” every year up till then. Well, my husband would have it no longer and paid the paltry amount of $20 that I somehow never felt we could afford, and I was in!

If you have a seed saving group near you or in your country (Seed Savers Exchange, US), I would strongly suggest joining if you have an interest in growing food. If you don’t have one, maybe you could start one? Seed saving groups do just what the name suggests, save seeds and share with their members (usually the person requesting seeds pay the sender the postage fee, or maybe you can host an in-person seed-swap when things calm down!). By collecting and growing local and heritage seed varieties, community seed savers play a crucial role when it comes to genetic variations and taking power back from industrial seed producers who maybe only provide 2-3 different varieties of different plants.

Our Norwegian seed savers are highly esteemed too, working closely with genetic research and preservation labs to test and ensure for instance that heritage potatoes are virus-free. We work with botanical gardens and in some cases, even help grow “backup plants”, in case disease or frost hurt their own collection.

There is no reason why seeds should only be available from large gardening stores. Be a rebel, grow your own!

Quiet activism

When it comes to activism, gardening and growing your own food has to be one of the most peaceful ways there is. When you grow even just a little bit of your own food, it’s as if you are printing your own money. The food bill gets reduced (even if it is just for one month in autumn!), and you get a sense of mastery and accomplishment.

Yes, it can be hard work, and frustrating, especially when pests eat most of your plants. But The beautiful thing about gardening is that each season is a clean slate, ready to build on the experiences you gained last year.

Of course, it wouldn’t be quite ecofrugal if I didn’t remind you all of permaculture at the same time. I, for one, relish in imitating nature, not just because it makes for a bountiful harvest – but because it also means I have to do less once the system is set up! Lazy gardeners unite!

Once we have the homestead of our dreams, you can bet I will be planting fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes and other perennial food crops by the dozen. There won’t be much in terms of lawn left!

Grow food, not lawns. ❤️

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