DIRT may lift your mood

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by William J. Langenberg, Grenville Herb Farm

The Bacteria in composted horse manure and/or garden soil, that will make you happier and smarter, will be the theme of Grenville Herb Farm Display at the North Grenville Seedy Saturday event. In September of this year, I will have been facilitating Horticulture Therapy Programs in North Grenville for twenty years. Every client I worked with during these years felt a lot happier when he or she worked in the garden.

For a long time I thought: “It’s just the plants that make the gardener happy”. After all, research has shown that plants have a positive influence on our brain activities through a process called ‘Biofeedback’. When working with plants, our brain waves change frequencies from a Beta to Alpha mode, which makes us more relaxed, calmer, and we can think more clearly. After being involved with plants, actively or passively, for about 3- 5 minutes, we intuitively are able to handle situations that used to, more or less, baffle us. Plants help us to get this “light-bulb” moment in our mental thinking.

Well, it’s not the plants alone that make us happy when gardening. The garden soil, itself, also plays an important role in our brain’s happiness department. In early 2007, Dr. Chris Lowry, Associate Professor in ‘Integrative’ Physiology and Neuroscience, at the University of Bristol in the UK, discovered some friendly bacteria in organic soil that altered the brain’s neuro-behaviour in a way that is similar to that produced by antidepressant drugs.

These soil bacteria, when on the skin, communicate with the neurotransmitters in our brain and develop a healthy brain immune system for maintaining mental health. These friendly, happy brain neurotransmitter-improving bacteria are also found abundantly in horse and cow manure, of all places.

Those who are planning to attend the ‘Seedy Saturday’ event at the North Grenville Public Library on Saturday, April 27 between 11 am and 3 pm, will be given the opportunity (or challenge) at the Grenville Herb Farm table to touch and smell composted horse manure, which has been cured for two years. Perhaps one comes to the realization that these friendly soil bacteria, which will be identified and explained at this ‘Seedy Saturday’ event, will greatly reduce anxiety and depressions.

The objective of Seedy Saturday is not only to exchange seeds, but also to encourage local people to start a home-garden and feel the excitement and happiness when getting their hands dirty while planting garden vegetables and herbs. “He who plants a garden, plants happiness”.

An old farmer once said: “Dirt does not Hurt!”

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