Literary Kitchen Witch: Benefits of mindful meditation in the garden

Mindful gardening has allowed me to become more patient and kind. Mindful gardening is the process of being fully present mentally in the garden to bring about a greater connection with one’s mind, body and spirit. My garden is a sanctuary where I can rest and recharge my batteries, a place where I can connect with nature to cultivate a healthy mind while feeling at ease. Becoming familiar with mindfulness is exceptionally important because of its benefits regarding self-control, improved concentration and mental clarity, and the ability to relate to others and yourself with kindness, acceptance, and compassion. 

Soil is proven to improve one’s mood because the bacteria in the ground stimulate parts of the brain that produce serotonin, which helps us feel happier and calmer. Gardening is even better at reducing cortisol levels than reading a book. 

As college students, we may not always have access to a vast garden where we can grow various plants, fruits or vegetables. While it would be great to maximize a harvest, mindful gardening focuses more on intentionally slowing down. Acquiring a couple of house plants in pots, a small herb garden or one raised bed, depending on your space, is perfect for those craving peace and restoration. 

“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaging with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them,” according to an article in Headspace, a mindfulness app. 

One way this could be done is by activating each of your five senses. I like to start with hearing and use this opportunity to note any sounds in my environment. I pay attention to simple things like cars passing by, neighbors talking or birds chirping in the trees. After a few minutes, I will begin cleaning up my plants by cutting dead leaves, leveling the soil and wiping down my terracotta pots. I then focus on my sense of smell by sniffing my herbs and flower plants while noting any earthy, sweet or savory notes.

Regarding sight, I will focus on a plant, look at the colors, and note its veins and leaf textures. I will also use this time to see if any pests have invaded. With regards to taste, this one depends on if you have any edible plants. I will often pick off a piece of leaf and slowly enjoy its flavor. All in all, the length of the process varies on how much time I have. I usually aim for 10-20 minutes three times a week. Every time I finish a session of mindful gardening, I find that my nervous system is much calmer than when I initially started. Excellent house plants include: 

Pothos Collection: 

There are fifteen species of Pothos worldwide, all of which make excellent houseplants for gardeners at all levels with their attractive vine and heart-shaped leaves. Whether you get a golden pothos or a marble queen pothos, any variation can be grown either in or out of soil or in water. This is done through the process of propagation. Propagating is when you cut off pieces of the plant at the node and put it in water. It eventually grows roots and then you can replant it and create more plants. 

Pothos plants require bright, indirect or low light. Furthermore, they are also natural air purifiers that remove harmful pollutants and gasses. Pothos makes a great beginner plant because it is low maintenance and forgiving.  They also grow very fast at approximately 12-18 inches every month so long as they are provided with the optimal conditions of temperature, watering and lighting. Since they grow this quickly, they make great plants to propagate so you can eventually create a lot of plants. 

Snake Plant:

This is a great beginner plant, known for being low-maintenance and can handle a relatively large amount of neglect. They make great indoor plants because they purify the air by removing formaldehyde, xylene and nitrogen oxides from the air. Interestingly, they also produce oxygen at night while taking in carbon dioxide, improving air quality. Looking at the plant’s symbolism, they are often associated with persistence and happiness and interestingly, when looking at Feng-Shui (an ancient practice of arranging pieces in the home to promote a more balanced and harmonious relationship with the natural world) has been used to symbolize good luck. Snake Plants do not require a lot of water, something to note about this plant is that the soil must dry out completely to prevent overwatering and, subsequently, root rot. They thrive with any light level varying from low to high. That being said they tend to grow quicker in bright light. Under ample conditions, they tend to grow up to 12 feet tall. 

Peace Lily: 

These gorgeous green, flowering plants are excellent for beginners since they can survive watering mistakes and will inform their owners when something is wrong. For example, when they need water or are not getting enough sunlight, they will droop — but within two hours of being watered or receiving more sunshine, they will perk up. These plants like to be watered about once a week and prefer soil that dries out slightly between waterings. In terms of sunlight, they prefer low to bright indirect sunlight, making them the perfect fit for brightening up a dark corner. This plant can grow between 1 to 4 feet tall and wide but has been known to grow up to 6 feet. These are excellent air purifiers since they neutralize toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.

All in all, I hope you decide to practice mindful gardening in an effort to find more love and kindness in your life.

Cynthia Solis is a junior writing about literature, cooking and all things plants. Her column. “Literary Kitchen Witch,” runs every other Wednesday.