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May 3, 2013

STAWAR: The garden of weedin’

(Continued)

 One spring, my father was suddenly inspired to grow fresh corn on the cob — corn as high as an elephant’s eye. Like Garrison Keillor’s father, he wanted to eat fresh corn that had been taken directly from the field and immediately dumped in boiling water. 

He managed to nurse a few stalks along and keep them alive until fall. They even produced several ears of corn. Unfortunately, the kernels were the hardest, break-your-teeth variety anyone has ever seen. His amused friends said that he must had grown “horse corn” by mistake. Evidently, that is a variety of field corn that hoofed animals can easily munch, but isn’t intended for human consumption. 

 Linda Wasmer Andrews, a writer who specialized in mental health issues and blogs for Psychology Today, says gardening can improve the beauty of your surroundings or put a bounty of vegetables on your plate. But it’s also excellent therapy for your stressed-out mind. Andrews suggests that there are four main ways that gardening can increase one’s mental well-being: 1. It reduces stress relief; 2. It encourages better nutrition; 3. It provides exercise and; 4. it stimulates creativity . 

A 2011 study at Wageningen University in the Netherlands compared the beneficial effects of gardening to recreational reading. The researchers found that unlike reading, gardening led to a significant reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and also provided a positive boost to the subjects’ mood. 

According to Andrews, research also show that gardeners tend to eat healthier diets — rich in vegetables and fruits that provide antioxidants and other important nutrients. According to the American Council on Exercise, gardening burns up an average of 300 calories per hour. Vigorous gardening activities such as hoeing or weeding can also provide aerobic benefits and help build muscle. Finally, Andrews says that landscaping and gardening can be a creative endeavor that allows you to express your unique identity. 

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