GARDENS FOR HEALTHY LIVING

Does your garden make you feel welcome and comfortable? Is it a healthy and safe environment? Does it have good vibes, making you feel relaxed or inspired? If the answer to any of these is no, you should probably have a closer look at what you can change in the garden.

Our gardens are very important to our wellbeing, both physically and psychologically. It’s where we go to escape the outside world, either to relax or to seek inspiration, and it’s important to minimise anything that prevents that sense of unwinding and escaping.

Of course, there are some things you can’t change – noisy neighbours, barking dogs, a backyard that’s too small, bad weather – but even small improvements will make your garden a healthier and happier environment.

AVOID THE NEGATIVES & ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES
Start by making a list of what you like and don’t like about your garden.  What can you easily change?  Are there things you can introduce into the garden to make it more user-friendly?

WHAT MAKES A GARDEN USER-FRIENDLY

  • Good safe access – wide paths with non-slip surfaces, broad steps with sturdy handrails, no dangerous plants (eg. thorns) 
  • Comfortable seating – outdoor tables and chairs in at least one area of the garden
  • Protection from the elements – wind, glare and heat, UV radiation, rain
  • Pleasant scents – fragrant herbs and scented flowers
  • Attractive colours
  • Pleasant outlook
  • Interesting features – garden ornaments, landscaped beds, ponds and other water features, interesting plants
  • A sense of belonging – something that makes the garden distinctively yours


WHAT MAKES A GARDEN LESS USER-FRIENDLY

  • Pollutants
  •  Bad smells
  •  Allergens – plants etc that people are allergic to
  • Electro-magnetic radiation (eg. from overhead power lines)
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Lack of privacy
  • Noise from traffic, neighbours, etc.
  • Unattractive views




COLOUR AND ITS EFFECT ON YOUR HEALTH
Colours in the garden can have a very real effect upon our health. Colours are sometimes divided into two broad groups:

• Hot colours including reds, orange and yellow.
• Cool colours such as blues and greens.

Hot colours have the psychological effect of making people feel active, encouraging work and activity in the garden. Cool colours are more relaxing. Planting for colour can be a useful technique for countering the effect of extreme weather. For example, brightly coloured Camellias and Daffodils can warm up a cold winter garden, while soft blues and an abundance of green foliage can take the sting out of a hot summer’s day.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR GARDEN A HEALTHY AND SAFE PLACE
Design your garden to suit your climate. In cold climates, create suntraps; in hot climates, provide shade. 

Suntraps and heat banks can be created with areas of stone or masonry that absorb heat, which is given off as the temperature drops. Having a BBQ or fireplace in these areas can enhance this effect. 

Good ventilation is especially important in hot, humid climates, while splashing water from a pond or fountain will provide a cooling effect as well as a pleasant sound. 

Provide some protection in the garden from rain. This could be a gazebo, a roof over the back patio, or even just a windbreak that provides protection from the prevailing winds. Windbreaks will not actually block out noise, but they will protect you from the dust and disturbance of winds. Ideally, they should be planted to provide privacy as well as protection.

If you live in an area that suffers from atmospheric pollutants, then plant hardy trees that can cope with these conditions. Trees can also keep dust and smoke away from the washing line or the windows of the lounge room.

Avoid allergenic plants. People with allergies or sinus problems are particularly sensitive to highly perfumed plants, or plants which produce a lot of pollen. Some of the worst plants for these problems are wattles, boronia, jasmine and freesias. Even if you don't suffer, spare a thought for family, visitors or even neighbours. 

Avoid using toxic or persistent chemicals in the garden by not planting disease or insect-prone plants that need regular spraying. Plants that attract ants should be planted away from eating areas. If ants are a problem, keep the soil moist. 

Learn more about Environmental Health at https://www.acs.edu.au/Courses/Permaculture-and-Self-Sufficiency-courses.aspx