When you harvest buckets and buckets of tomatoes from your ever growing vegetable garden, how do you feel? Maybe its relief and excitement: now you can start your Christmas gifts by making salsa for your family and friends. Maybe its satisfaction: finally, your first year of overabundance and you get to share it with your neighbors. Maybe it’s being proud of your hard work because it was a trial and error year and you had every pest you could imagine in your yard. All of these positive characteristics of gardening can be shared when you teach someone else to garden too. Why not share your passion and knowledge for gardening with a veteran?
A veteran may be a family member, friend or neighbor, and as you remember their service, you may be looking for ways to honor them. As gardeners, we usually want to treat others to homegrown produce or fresh cut flowers, but did you know research shows gardening can actually improve and restore mental and physical health for veterans?
Veterans and mental health staff all over the country are creating what they call “healing gardens” to not only provide a source of relaxation, but also inspiration and rehabilitation for veterans from all walks of life. For those veterans who suffer from mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, gardening can be a positive outlet to help them manage the stresses of entering civilian life or the long-term effects of PTSD. Healing gardens can also be a place to raise produce for those veterans and their families who suffer financially or are homeless.
As a gardener, you know your garden gives you a sense of purpose. You are needed every day to monitor for pests, water your plants and when the time comes, reap the benefits of your hard work. This sense of purpose can help those who have served. Not only can veterans benefit from being outside and being active, they can also feel the sense of accomplishment and purpose that comes from tending to their own garden.
Though edible gardening is often what people are using as healing gardens, ornamental gardening is also very fulfilling for those in need of healing. Ornamental gardening can provide safe places for those experiencing stress, as well as improve physical and mental health through physical work and mindfulness. Some examples of ornamental healing gardens can be found locally at Renown Medical Center, with the John & Sue Dermody Children’s Healing Garden. This garden may be an inspiration for you as you plan your own healing garden.
Whatever type of healing garden you decide, whether it be an edible garden or an ornamental haven, remember that your passion and knowledge can be shared to inspire others and honor veterans. The opportunities are endless for healing gardens, and as a gardener, you can share your knowledge and your life with those who have made our freedom continue to be a reality.
Jenn Fisher is the Washoe County Master Gardener program assistant with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Garden questions? Ask a Master Gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit growyourownnevada.com.