Designing Your Garden for Better Mental Health

Landscape architect Doug Scott says gardening is good for the mind. (Photo by Exmark)
Landscape architect Doug Scott says gardening is good for the mind. (Photo by Exmark)

Gardening is not only a means for beautifying outdoor spaces and growing delicious foods. According to those who spend significant time in the yard, getting outside can also support your wellbeing.

“Gardening is good for the mind, good for the soul and good for the body,” said legendary football coach Vince Dooley. “I enjoy coming out to garden, and when I finish, I feel like I’ve done something, and I feel good.”

Landscape architect Doug Scott of Redeem Your Ground recently visited Dooley to discuss gardening and mental health. Here are some of the insights they shared:

Health Benefits

Active benefits: Gardening exercises the body and clears the mind. Studies show that increased outdoor exposure leads to fewer long-term health problems, helping improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, strength and dexterity — all leading to better mental health.

Simply planting, growing, harvesting and maintaining plants gives you a direct emotional boost. Why? Gardening helps foster nurturing instincts and restores a sense of hope and purpose, ultimately improving self-esteem.

Passive benefits: Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry. Scientific evidence proves that just being in nature has positive impacts on stress levels and brain chemistry. It can also lower blood pressure, increase concentration and improve mood. What’s more, being outdoors offers a deeper sense of belonging and a new sense of purpose outside the daily grind.

garden zenDesigning Your Garden

Scott advises designing your garden to reflect how you want to live outside. He typically builds “rooms” connected by meandering paths for resting, unwinding and feeling restored. However, your outdoor spaces don’t always need to be quiet. They can encourage activity as well.

If you enjoy company, create gathering spaces. Or, if you have hobbies that can be done outdoors like exercising, painting or writing, you can set aside areas for them.

Finally, Scott recommends designing your garden to awaken your five senses. Here’s how:

Sight: Choose calming colors or those that bring you joy. The simple sight of a breathtaking array of plants or an arrangement of favorite flowers is bound to give your mental health a boost.

Taste: Growing your own food will provide you with an incredibly rewarding harvest. Not only will you be able to enhance meals with the fruits of your labor, you’ll get the personal satisfaction of a job well done.

Hearing: Among the plants and flowers, add fixtures, such as wind chimes and water features, that’ll produce soothing sounds. And with the new habitat you’ve created, you’ll enjoy bird song, too.

Touch: From the light, feathery textures of petals to the rough surfaces of bark or bush stems, touch offers a deeper sense of connection to nature.

Smell: You may already use aromatherapy indoors. Take this concept outside by growing fragrant flowers and herbs, so you can literally “stop to smell the roses.”

By gardening, your mental health will be better off for it. Just be sure to start small, simple and stress-free.

Scott and Dooley offer more insights in “Garden Therapy,” a recent episode of “Done-In-A-Weekend Projects,” an original series from lawn care equipment manufacturer, Exmark. To watch the video, visit Backyard Life, part of a unique multimedia destination with a focus on helping homeowners make the most of outdoor spaces.