November - Get down to earth

It’s all change in the garden this month as autumn colour and falling foliage transforms trees, shrubs and borders. It’s a wonderful sight that brings the gardening year to a spectacular end. Autumn is a busy season, with plenty to tempt us outside to keep us active, even if early frosts force us to dress up warm.

There’s summer bedding to clear away, border perennials to cut down, veg plots to clear, and leaves to collect and convert into valuable leafmould to use for mulching and feeding the soil. Pots and baskets can be planted with evergreens and hardy bedding like pansies, and a host of spring flowering bulbs including tulips and narcissus planted for colourful early displays.

Gardening throughout the year brings with it many benefits, like keeping us active in the fresh air, while direct contact with soil has been shown to be valuable to our mental health and wellbeing. Research has demonstrated the value of ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’ in the alleviation of health problems, relieving stress, and improving our mood and restful sleep.

Digging compost and manure into your soil provides exercise while at the same time improving soil structure, fertility and composition. In addition it’s been found that working with soil can also boost our immune system, probably by exposing us to beneficial bacteria. Studies have shown that children exposed to a variety of microbes have decreased incidence of allergies and asthma. One reason could be that in our increasingly clean and sterile homes and surroundings that children aren’t exposed to the ‘bugs’ that help them develop strong immune systems. Getting dirty in the garden could be just what everyone needs.

As the saying goes ‘We are what we eat’, and there’s an increasing body of evidence that shows that by eating organically grown produce we’ll be ingesting higher levels of beneficial ingredients like vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. What better reason can there be to start growing your own, and enjoy the benefits of feeding your family with fruit and crops you’ve raised yourself … and probably save money too!

Research around the world continues to highlight the many benefits of gardening, and although the benefits of direct contact with soil and friendly bacteria aren’t yet fully understood they indicate what many people believe … gardening is great therapy!