Five Minutes With | Monty Don

With spring around the corner, the Gardeners’ World presenter talks about why gardening is good for you

How would you say gardening contributes to a healthy lifestyle?
Gardening has helped my wellbeing immeasurably on a number of levels. In terms of physical activity, it is increasingly shown as one of the best and most healthy things that anybody can do. People are now realising its importance in terms of physical mobility and core strength. There are people in their 90s who are gardening well. You have to bend, stoop, lift, twist, turn, walk, reach – it involves a full range of movement. Pottering in the garden undoubtedly helped me recover from my stroke 10 years ago. I admit my knees have suffered from years of gardening, but I just keep going. I’m still strong and can lift anything!

How do you manage to fit in tending your own garden with your busy work schedule?
If it’s a writing day, I write in the morning and see to the garden in the afternoon. If it’s a filming day, I start filming at 7.30am and finish at 6pm, and often carry on gardening until 8pm. At the weekend, I might garden for 15 hours.

Do you manage to get out in the garden whatever the weather?
It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, if it’s a howling gale or raining, because being outside in the light and in the air is intrinsically good for your health, particularly if you are moving around. I find pruning during the middle of winter therapeutic. I don’t wear gloves (unless I’m pruning a prickly rose) – they make everything clumsy. I’ve always got scratches but I like to feel the soil.

So, is gardening the secret to living well?
Lots of tests have shown that it’s really good to spur you on if you’re feeling down, will calm you if you are feeling agitated, and make you feel rested and balanced if your mind is jumbled and all over the place – it’s a really good leveller for your mind.

Are you ever able to fully switch off when you’re in the garden?
The thing about gardening is that it’s something that takes a lot of your attention, but you don’t have to think about it too much. You have to concentrate, but you don’t have to worry about the detail of how you’re doing it. It achieves that really good balance between absorbing you and, at the same time, not stressing you out.

How would you sum up the positive benefits of gardening?
You plant something and it has a future. It needs you. You’re investing in a glimmer of hope. In terms of your mental health, because you’re growing something, you’re doing something positive, even if you are just tidying up.

Down To Earth by Monty Don is published by DK, priced £17.99. Available now.

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