Gardening for Mental Health

I have earthworms, free coffee grinds from Starbucks, and an obsession over squirrels.

I’m a flower floozie. Although in my case the term should probably be flower whore. Who are we kidding, right?

I’ve thrown myself headfirst into gardening. Partly because of my postpartum depression. And partly because it’s a family activity.

It has now completely taken over my life, and my yard.

I dream about gardens. I can smell mine in my sleep. I have plotted every inch of my yard. It’s all mapped out on a very worn piece of computer paper. I know where the sun hits what plant at what time of day. Where each sprinkler head sprays. How my soil drains. Where my soil is mostly clay.

I know. I know. It’s insane. But I tell you, it’s healing me. And it’s healing me in ways far beyond PPD.

When I’m angry, I pull weeds. I trim vines. I yank and I pull and I get dirty and sweaty and tired. Until I’m just not that angry anymore.

When I’m happy, I plant. I plant marigolds to keep away bugs and pests. I tend to my tomatoes. I search for caterpillars on my zucchini.

When I’m anxious, I hunt squirrel.

Laugh at me, it’s ok. But I have a bumper crop of strawberries going and those damn furry things keep stealing them just as they ripen. Imagine waiting weeks and weeks for the reward, only to have it carried away by some bastard rodent.

The whole family has gotten in on the act. The kids each have watering cans. They follow me around the yard as I trim and rake. Count Waffles knows the names of almost everything we’ve planted in the fruit and veggie garden. He can tell you which trees are cherry and which are apple. Princess Peanut insists carrying her kid blue shovel each time I grab my adult sized shovel. They both help me pour beer into planted plastic cups to catch snails and slugs.

Even the Kaiser is contributing. He stopped me from buying a gun to kill the neighborhood squirrels, and fashioned a chickenwire fence instead.

We’re all outside together. As a family. Working toward ripe tomatoes and jalepenos for summer cook outs. And it feels good.

So far, that’s just my food garden. I haven’t even touched on the flowers. Yet. OOOOOH the flowers. My new babies arrive this week. Columbine, German Catchfly, Verbascum, delphinium, Githago, Viola, someone stop me…because I can go on for hours.

My goal is to make our yard a showplace. I want to give TOURS of my garden. I’m a long, long way from that. But I’m off to a hell of a start.

As my garden grows, I heal. As my hands get dirty, I heal. I’m in the sunshine, I’m being physical.
Fantastic therapy right in your own backyard.


  1. Awesome! That sounds great, and looks great, and I’m so glad that it’s helping you so much! What fun and extra cool that it’s a family activity.

    We planted marigolds all over the place last year – we had both always been told that they keep the snails and slugs away. They were ALL eaten to the nub – BY SLUGS AND SNAILS. I don’t get that. But I can tell you that copper tape keeps away the snails and slugs. And slug bait. That’s what Slipshod is using outside – the kind that’s safe for pets and kids. It’s magnesium something-or-other.

  2. We’re using beer! And it works really, really well. I just cut a plastic cup almost down to the end, and plant it so it’s even with the soil. Then I just pour really cheap and crappy beer in every few days. We’ve been catching, on average, about 12 snails and slugs NIGHTLY! And all my plants that were getting eaten are now hole free! I knew beer was wonderful, I just had no idea HOW wonderful!

  3. Wow, I’m so impressed! You have a talent that all of my family has, but I lack entirely. I don’t just have a brown thumb, I have a black thumb. I can kill any plant. It’s amazing I’m allowed to have a child with my history of planticide.

    Now that we have a house, I want to pretty it up on the outside, but we’re going to have to rely on my mom to come help us plant flowers that don’t need a lot of help from us. Because if they need our help, they’ll die.

  4. Oh Christina, I went through years of the green thumb on one hand and finger of death on the other.

    It used to be 50/50. I think I’m about 80/20 now. Just took a few good gardening books and lots of label reading.

  5. Queen…I got a whole yard that needs some landscaping. Please, fly over and train me!! 🙂

    It sounds like you love gardening! That’s awesome!

  6. I would totally do people’s yards. That’s how much I love it.

    I would also clean your house. I’m weird.

  7. Chickenwire?

    (you know, say it like in “The Blues Brothers”

  8. Wow!!…I guess gardening does heal what ails you. cool!

  9. BEER! I’m going to tell Slipshod. Of course, we don’t drink it so that would be the only reason to buy it – but maybe it’s cheaper than what he’s currently buying – and it’s probably less toxic too.

  10. I mean, cheaper than what he’s currently buying to kill the snails and slugs.

  11. Too scary. I kid you not, in the last 10 days I’ve been to the hardware store 5 or 6 times getting flower seeds and soil. My father in law is worried what the yard will look like in a couple months. I told him to trust me, it’ll be purty and we all know that’s better than pretty.

    It’s so therapuetic indeed.

  12. You’re hooked, I can tell! It’s a great addiction, good for the body and the soul. Beer for the slugs is great – I’ve had hole-free hostas since I started using it years ago. Enjoy your obsession!

  13. Over at these parts, the yucca is starting to bloom. I love it. And the hostas, they are FRIGHTENING. And I’m dying to see what color the squadrons of cannas are that are all around the koi pond. We brought over some roses from our old place, and they are just now sprouting new growth, after we had to viciously cut them back. Now what I need is clematis, and lots of it. This place is in dire need of clematis!

  14. Okay, so I know that this is a completely hippie dippie thing to do, but I love gardening too.

    And I wanted a garden for my kids, but I wanted a garden that wouldn’t die.

    So, (and I’m going to blog it tomorrow) on mothers day, Bunny and I went out and built this huge rock garden in the middle of our lawn in the shape of a heart. We made it our of pond stones of different colors. It has a circular pattern in it. We painted flat, square cement blocks and bordered it with that and with solar powered lights. Then, we’re going to paint larger rocks to looks like flowers and put them inside. And event rocks, when special things happen in our family.

    I know, I know… even my husband, who is just as crunchy as I am… was like… uh… that’s a nice idea honey… but sorta gave me a sideways look about it and held in his laughter.

  15. It’s like you’re speaking another language. Clay in the yard? A list of flowers w/ exotic and unknown names?

    The green thumb gene passed me right by. Our yard’s a mess. A complete broken down mess. Well, not really. A few gardeners roll through every other week. And I do pick up the dog shit.

    If you’re interestd – list a few books you recommend for ‘beginners’ who vaguely care that their yard not look like they are married to Sanford and Sons.

  16. Is anyone having Blogger issues today? I’m trying to create a new post and I can’t even see my blog. Anyone else? Or is it my new computer?? Anyone? Anyone?

  17. SIGH…I am so jealous. My thumb is absolutely black with ineptitude when it comes to plants.

    Wanna come do mine? I can’t pay much, but I make a great pot of coffee and some killer homemade coffee cake.

  18. No green tumb at all:-( But then things just grow wild around here. But, bless you, the gardening seems to be making you thrive.

  19. Loved this post. I’m a big advocate for the therapy of the out-of-doors.

  20. I think thats great. I love gardening, but I always thought of it as pyhsicall work not mental work. I also wanted to comment on those dam squrills, rabbits and other pests. I am always trying to firgure out ways to keep them out. I plant flowers that keep them away, put up fences, but they still find away in. Check out my blog, and maybe we could brain storm ideas to keep them out. By the way you have a nice blog it’s cool.

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