Cultivating calm: how gardening helps me find peace – The Guardian

It was the runner beans that did it. My neighbour, who is in her 90s, dropped round an envelope filled with a small handful of dried beans, which looked as if they’d been dipped in pink and black paint. A few months later, I was eating the best runner beans I’ve ever tasted, and they kept coming, for weeks and weeks. We gave bunches and bunches away, ate more, learned that you have to de-string them, and then finally, recently, when the plants started to look tired, let them dry out, and saved the seeds for next year’s batch.

I have a restless mind and I have tried everything to quieten it. Running, meditation, yoga. Working hard, hardly working. I have repeatedly listened to the app that’s meant to ground you, only to float off on a cloud of guilt for not being able to concentrate on it for long enough. But gardening works like no…….

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It was the runner beans that did it. My neighbour, who is in her 90s, dropped round an envelope filled with a small handful of dried beans, which looked as if they’d been dipped in pink and black paint. A few months later, I was eating the best runner beans I’ve ever tasted, and they kept coming, for weeks and weeks. We gave bunches and bunches away, ate more, learned that you have to de-string them, and then finally, recently, when the plants started to look tired, let them dry out, and saved the seeds for next year’s batch.

I have a restless mind and I have tried everything to quieten it. Running, meditation, yoga. Working hard, hardly working. I have repeatedly listened to the app that’s meant to ground you, only to float off on a cloud of guilt for not being able to concentrate on it for long enough. But gardening works like nothing else has. I can nip into the garden for five minutes and find that three hours have passed. I don’t look at my phone. I tend not to worry or fret. And I can eat (most of) the spoils.

For most of my adult life, I lived in rented flats in London, never in one place long enough to be certain of seeing a seasonal cycle through. Outdoor space was a rarity and a luxury. During the first lockdown, in another flat with no garden, I went for it anyway. A few herbs on every window ledge, mostly the easy ones, parsley and mint, but a few tomato plants, too, grown from seed, surprisingly hardy on the roof of a bay window belonging to the flat below.

Then I and my partner fled the city, moved to a town and a small house with a garden at the back and front, loved at one time, but largely left to their own devices in recent years. It had become a foliage battle royale, and the winner turned out to be ivy, which was everywhere. It needed some work. It was a big job. And then one day, we got stuck in. What a simple pleasure, to have a reason to be outside whenever it was light and dry, to get mucky from digging and tired from lifting, to watch as a bed we had toiled hard to clear revealed itself over time, with nature’s underrated sense of humour, to be harbouring snowdrops and daffodils and tulips, buried far deeper than the fork had gone.

Take one magic bean… Rebecca grew her own runners, thanks to her neighbour. Photograph: Mint Images/Getty Images/Mint Images RF

To find garlic under shrubs, remnants of forgotten veg patches, to see peonies, roses, crocosmia, Mexican orange blossom, all insistent they would be making an appearance, thank you very much, despite being untended by …….

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/jan/04/cultivating-calm-how-gardening-helps-me-find-peace

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