Sunday 21 October is Garden Day in South Africa: a time to celebrate your garden with friends and family – and become aware of how gardening really is good for you!

There’s really nothing like the joy of gardening. Connecting to nature, the pride of growing your own plants, flowers, fresh food and of course, the amazing health benefits.

It’s also well documented that gardens, no matter how big or small, have the potential to bring people and communities together, which is why on Sunday 21 October the call to action for South Africa’s annual Garden Day is to down tools, and invite neighbours, friends and family around to celebrate your garden together.

Now in its third year, Garden Day sprouted as an idea from a group of enthusiastic gardeners who wanted to start a movement to unite South Africans by creating a day where everyone can enjoy and celebrate their gardens together.

Plants instead of pills

Many studies have shown that gardening can make a significant contribution to our health and well-being, not just as a way to get some physical exercise but also to improve our mental health.

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GPs in London have already started to prescribe gardening time to assist patients with mental health troubles

According to Professor Nox Makunga, a plant scientist at the Department of Botany and Zoology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa’s magnificent variety of flora has been used by people for health purposes for centuries.

A medicinal garden in some households is the first line of primary health care

“Apart from their aesthetic beauty, gardens have many healing properties linked to psycho-spiritual healing,” says Prof Makunga. “They may provide us with food and medicine and an interconnectedness to nature and the world around us and also to our very self. Benefits are thus psychological, social, emotional and physical. A medicinal garden in some households is a first line of primary health care.”

Gardening is also the world’s best-kept exercise secret

Whether you spend five minutes or a whole day gardening, all the stretching, pulling and lifting will help you and your garden stay in great shape and increase your physical health by an average of 33%, with knock-on benefits for rates of heart disease and diabetes. You may even live longer!

“When one works the garden, the physical labour provides good exercise that benefits both the cardio and muscular system, and even works the brain,” adds Prof Makunga.

Social seeds

Gardening does not only lift up your mood, it is also a great way of connecting with people and reducing loneliness, which is why this Garden Day South Africans are once again encouraged to sow the spirit of Ubuntu.

So if you’ve been admiring your neighbour’s garden from afar, intrigued by their rambling roses or eager to learn more about their striking succulents, Garden Day is the perfect time for you to branch out and cultivate relationships with those around you.

Gardener Alan Hulme likes to “mix it up” at his community garden Urban Organic in Blackpool. Local residents work alongside schoolchildren, as well as visually impaired and socially isolated people. “The garden is the focus,” he says, “but the secret ingredients are tea, cake and bringing people together.

Get ready… set… Garden Day, go!

Taking part in Garden Day couldn’t be easier: decide on how you want to celebrate your garden space with family, friends and neighbours then download the free Garden Day digital and printable invitation from the Garden Day website and send it out to everyone, inviting them to join you on Sunday, 21 October.

FREE flower crown workshops in Cape Town and Johannesburg

Crown yourself King or Queen of Garden Day at FREE flower crown-making stations in Cape Town and Johannesburg on Saturday 13 and 20 October between 10:00 and 12:00.

All materials will be provided and everyone is invited!

CAPE TOWN:

Saturday 13 October – Neighbourhood Goods Market (Woodstock)

Saturday 20 October – Oranjezicht City Farm Market (Granger Bay)

JOHANNESBURG: 

Saturday 20 October – Neighbourhood Goods Market (Braamfontein)

Register here

If you can’t get to a workshop, watch this video on How to make a flower crown: