Gardening – may.qxp_Layout 2 23/04/2021 17:03 Page 1
Fresh organic Rainbow Swiss Chard
The power of plants
As we look forward to warmer months ahead, Elly West shares how we can get the most out of our gardens
68 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE
source of dietary fibre. Curly kale has a long cropping season that can extend right through the winter, and has the added bonus of ornamental appeal with its red-purple frilly foliage. It's happy in shade and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
Gardening reduces stress levels, helping us to wind down – all conducive to a good eight-hours of shut eye
If you are short on space, you can always mix edibles in with your ornamental plants. Globe artichokes look fantastic at the back of a border with their large thistle-like heads and architectural leaves. Colourful chard is another vegetable that can hold its own in the flower border with its vivid stems and leaves. Try the variety 'Bright Lights’ for stems in yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, white and red. A resolution on my list this year is to get more sleep. Quality sleep is vital for good health, both physical and mental. Lack of it negatively affects our concentration and memory; can contribute to depression and anxiety; and also lowers our immune system, making us more likely to contract infections. Gardening is all about fresh air and exercise, so can improve our sleep by making us physically tired. Being exposed to natural light as much as possible also helps regulate our internal body clocks. Gardening reduces stress levels, helping us to wind down – all conducive to a good eight-hours of shut eye. And, if you want to grow crops that will help you rest, then try tomatoes, walnuts, cherries, broccoli and strawberries, as they contain melatonin – the natural sleep hormone.
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ow that we're finally emerging from the third – and hopefully final – lockdown, looking to the future with an end to the pandemic firmly in sight, we may well be thinking about what we have learned over the past year. The value of good health and mental well-being has never been so apparent – and gardening has long-proven health benefits. Our garden layout, the plants we choose and the physical act of tending our outdoor space can all contribute to enhancing mood, lowering stress levels, encouraging relaxation and promoting happiness. So if 2020 made you appreciate the importance of a healthier and happier life, then the garden is a great starting point. If you don't already have a vegetable plot, then this could be the spring that you decide to grow your own produce, even if it's just some salad leaves, herbs or cherry tomatoes in a pot. Consider making room for fruits and vegetables that will actively boost your health. Growing your own will save you money and if you choose organic methods then you can be sure your food is chemical and pesticide-free. Freshly picked crops also have more vitamins and minerals than those from a supermarket shelf – and children are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables that they have had a hand in growing. Easy-to-grow 'superfoods' – those that are bursting with nutrients – include artichoke, kale, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, chard and beetroot. Leafy greens in particular are rich in prebiotics, vitamins and antioxidants. Most are easy to grow from seed and tend to be shallowrooted crops that don't need an extremely rich soil, so are easy to grow in an average border. They do need plenty of water though, as well as good levels of sunlight. Spinach beet, also known as perpetual spinach, is an ideal starter crop as it can be sown from early February right through to the end of August for crops from May to October. The bright green leaves can be eaten in salads or cooked in the same way as regular spinach, and it's packed with calcium, magnesium and vitamins E and K. It's also a great