NZ Cities Growing Out of Garden Space
The national pastime of gardening is an important part of our Western cultural heritage but it could become a thing of the past as cities encroach on our green spaces.
In the lead up to National Gardening Week, that’s the message from Dr Keith Hammett, President of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, who believes it is crucial that existing green spaces are maximised and more created.
He says it is particularly important with the demise of the quarter acre section in urban areas and the growth of high density housing on the back of Auckland’s housing shortage.
“If we’re not careful gardening will be gone and recreational gardening is a very important facet of our Kiwi lifestyle. We must ensure that we retain adequate space and educate our children on how to garden and instil that love of getting your hands dirty if the art of gardening is to continue.
“There is so much knowledge and it’s critical for future generations that this knowledge is passed down. However, it can be seen that there is at least one, if not two lost generations of parents who have no skills to pass on.”
Dr Hammett believes gardening is more important than ever and not just for feeding ourselves but for general health and wellbeing.
Research shows that getting into the garden can reduces stress, lift your mood and burn calories.
It is clear that science supports the claim that gardening can improve an individual’s mood. A harmless bacterium found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that controls mood with an increase in serotonin resulting in a better mood. The past research, conducted at University of Bristol, found that treating mice with the bacteria altered their behaviour in a way similar to that produced by antidepressants.
Dr Hammett says it’s encouraging that community gardens are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand as people search for a place to not only grow food but a place to socialise. There are hundreds of community gardens around the country, providing food for local residents.
“Schools are also embracing the growing trend of sharing space and food. Often started by an enthusiastic teacher or grandparent, school gardens are an opportunity for children to grasp the basics of growing things and understanding how nature works. Students are learning carrots do not come from the supermarket but are grown in the ground and every parent will tell you that a vegetable nurtured and grown by a child is a vegetable that usually gets eaten by that child,” adds Dr Hammett.
At the other end of the spectrum gardening may lower the risk of dementia. Some research suggests that the physical activity of gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that various physical activities, including gardening, can cut your risk of Alzheimer's by 50 percent.
Dr Hammett is calling for everyone – whatever their age and stage – to get into the garden during National Gardening Week. “Plant some vegies, help out a neighbour or volunteer at your local community garden. Every hour spent in the garden will be doing you good!”
National Gardening Week returns 6th-13th October. The Week aims to foster a love of gardening with a focus on growing not only plants but friendships, good health, strong communities and closer connections with nature.
To celebrate National Gardening Week, Yates is giving away free vegie seeds between 1st and 13th October. Just register online during this time to receive your packet of seeds. www.yates.co.nz/nationalgardeningweek
University of Bristol; Getting dirty may lift your mood; http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2007/5384.html