7299792The weather is finally warming up after a chilly winter and you might be eager to enjoy it. Spring is especially beautiful in West, Tennessee, with mild weather and all the bright colors of spring blossoms. One of the nicest ways to enjoy this time of year is by gardening, whether in plots or containers. Getting your hands in the dirt has many benefits, both physical and mental. Not only is it a gentle form of exercise, enough to get the blood moving, it also helps with hand-eye coordination, balance, dexterity, and flexibility. It’s simply good to get moving!

Even slight boosts to your circulation and cardiovascular system bring additional oxygen to the brain, which can reduce stress and anxiety and help keep you healthy and sharp. Studies also show that gardening has a positive impact on mental health in other ways. Leiden University and Wageningen University found that even just half an hour of gardening reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, helping you to feel relaxed and happy. There’s also the major reward of seeing what your green thumb has produced and getting to enjoy your blooms.

A different study by Harvard found that sunshine is crucial not only for plants, but the people tending them, too. Vitamin D has been linked to a variety of conditions including osteoporosis, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Your ability to produce your own Vitamin D goes down as you get older, making it even more crucial to get it from other sources, like the sun. Just 10-15 minutes of sunshine can boost Vitamin D levels in your body. While it’s still important to wear sunscreen and to protect yourself with a hat or long sleeves, it’s ok to soak up the sun along with the fresh air for part of your time gardening.

There are a number of nurseries throughout Jackson, including Morris Nursery and Landscapes, Four Seasons Nursery and Garden, Carter’s Nursery Pond & Patio, and Randolph’s Greenhouses. You can start your plants from seeds or get sprouts from the garden center, along with the other tools you need, from dirt to pots to plant food. Once you get your plants established they won’t need much tending. Plants kept outdoors might need occasional weeding even if they’re in containers, or a bit of mulch sometimes. But you’ll be able to enjoy the product of your hard work for many months to come, even after this first burst of spring has turned into summer!

You can get started at almost any time, but if you don’t mind being a little patient there is another exciting source for plants for your garden. The West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center houses the UT Gardens, where you can not only go on a self-guided tour of the Arboretum but can also buy plants cultivated by their Master Gardners at the May 9th plant sale. The variety of plants they have cultivated will be perfectly suited to the climate, and you can learn a lot just from talking to the gardeners.

There are few things more lovely that spring in West Tennessee. We hope you find some exciting ways to enjoy the season, especially by getting your hands dirty and your heart full in the garden! After all, as author Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.