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Designing and Building Gardens for Health

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Can your garden improve your life as well as your lifestyle? In this article, we’re looking at designing and building gardens for health.

It’s my view that a garden should work hard for its lucky occupants. It should add value to the property, provide more living space, be a refuge from the troubles of the world, and most of all, bring joy. But have you considered how your garden could boost your physical and mental health?

Throughout history, people have used their gardens for exercise, to socialise, and to cultivate a wide range of plants to help them feel (and function) better. And, with a little bit of planning, you could do that too.

gardens for health - outdoor exercise

Gardens for Exercise

In the days of yore, wealthy people would make use of their large gardens and grounds for walking and playing sports. Many modern gardens are perhaps too small for a golf course, a tennis court an Olympic sized swimming pool. But hey – look what Captain Sir Tom Moore managed to do by exercising in his garden.

Thai-Chi, Yoga, and pilates are all perfectly possible in a small garden. As is a small putting green, a trampoline, or even an outdoor gym. If you have pets, a dog agility course will keep you and your pooch fit and healthy. And then, there is gardening itself. Depending on how your garden is laid out and planted, you can tailor your gardening activities to your fitness levels.

On the subject of health, you don’t need to be an athlete to enjoy exercise in your garden. A good garden designer will consider your mobility when planning the layout of your plot. It’s not generally a problem to swap steps for slopes, create lots of resting spots, and include features to help with confidence and balance. In my world, all gardens are for health as well as beauty.

Growing herbs for wellbeing

In medieval and Tudor times, people would grow a range of herbs in their gardens. These were prized more than flowers because they had a practical purpose. Herbs are of course, fantastic for flavouring food. But our ancestors also used them for medicinal purposes, for making themselves and their homes smell nicer, and for repelling insects.

Modern-day gardens for health could include culinary herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme as part of the planting plan. Lavender is known for its soothing scent – grow some alongside the patio to help you relax.

Mint is very easy to grow and makes a delicious tea that is said to ease indigestion settle an upset tummy. Always grow mint in a pot or planter – it can be quite invasive.

Herbs aside, being around living green plants is a proven boost to wellbeing. Gardens with plants – no matter what size the space may be – are gardens for health.

Fresh fruit and veg

growing vegetables with the square foot gardening method

It’s surprising how much fresh food you can produce from a small area.
The square foot gardening method is low maintenance and very productive. Discover more here

We can’t talk about gardens for health without mentioning healthy eating. Your garden has the potential to supply you with a beautiful array of tasty, fresh, vitamin stuffed fruit and vegetables. And growing them needn’t be a chore.

Raised beds are fantastic for growing your own food, but if you are just dipping your toe in the water, there’s no reason why you can’t mix edibles with your ornamental planting.

Climbing beans for example can be trained up an existing fence or shed. Most of them have beautifully coloured flowers and are truly decorative. If you don’t like runner beans, try growing borlotti beans – you can dry them and eat them over the wintertime.

Spinach, rocket, kale, and chard are wonderful foliage plants. Nip out and pick a few leaves every day to add to smoothies.

Strawberry plants are remarkably easy to care for – again, they can be grown either in pots or amongst your ornamental plants. They are perennials – so one plant will bear fruit for several years running.

It’s well worth investigating the possibilities for homegrown food and it’s something I always discuss with clients when designing and building gardens.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and my goodness, it does a lot of important stuff in our bodies. The human body harnesses the energy of the sun and makes its own vitamin D. This vitamin helps boost our immune systems, lifts our mood, and keeps bones and teeth strong and healthy.

When you have a garden that you love, you are more likely to spend time outside at any time of year. And the more time you spend outside, the more you benefit from all of that wonderful vitamin D.

Designing and building gardens for health is really all about creating outdoor spaces that people love to spend time in. Everybody is different, which is why, as a garden designer, I try to get to know my clients’ personal tastes before I start work on the layout plan.

Gardens for Mental Health

The COVID pandemic and subsequent lockdown have played havoc with our mental health. Loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and depression really do disrupt lives. It can’t be said often enough, that spending time in nature really does help to alleviate some of those awful symptoms.

Does your garden invite you outside every day? Does it attract wildlife so that you can listen to birdsong or watch the bees at work? Even the smallest of urban gardens can become a refuge from the hurley burley and confusion of everyday life.

Imagine sitting in a cosy arbour reading a book, or taking your laptop outside and working with the sun warming the back of your neck.

simple garden layout with all year round interest

Beautiful garden in Rodney Stoke designed and built by SilverBirch Gardens – a wonderful place to relax surrounded by nature.

If your garden doesn’t boost your mental health, or worse – if it’s a worry to you, you may want to contact a garden designer and landscaper who can turn your plot into a true refuge for everyone in your household – including your pets.

Click here to contact SilverBirch Gardens

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