Can gardening relieve stress?

Kutlwano Hutamo
5 min readNov 9, 2020

As an entrepreneur, I have really long and mostly unpredictable days. It can be stressful to always be on the move and not have any form of relaxation. We all need coping mechanisms to remain functional. I never used to have any time to exercise or do anything that would help me relax. Well, I never made the time, until I discovered gardening.

Green pepper plant. Boy was this delicious!

I took a conscious decision to start being more mindful of my mental health. So, I tried my hand at gardening. The effect was tremendous. Regardless of how late I got home, I made time to water my plants. I cannot explain the joy I felt when I saw my plants growing. To start from a tiny seedling to something I can harvest and eat, from my very own garden was more fulfilling than I’d imagined.

Jack and the beanstalk. These beans were grown from seed and were just so juicy.

I always say that ingredients inspire me to cook. Looking at fresh spinach or green peppers, chilies and beans, I immediately start conceptualising a dish that I’m going to cook. This is how I also started cooking a lot more just for fun, using ingredients from my own garden. My plants were organic and looked picture perfect. How could i not be inspired? I now had two activities that helped me unwind, gardening and cooking.

Cherry tomatoes.

I enjoyed gardening so much, my social media was suddenly littered with pictures of my crops and my bountiful harvests. I even started selling the little mobile gardens to my friends. I’m a scientist by training so trying out different methods to ensure the health of my plants was also an adventure I relished. I had found a semblance of peace in my crazy world. The World Economic Forum posted a video where experts say that having plants in your garden can be as effective as mindfulness sessions to reduce stress.

Stirfry loading. One of my favourite dishes to make using ingredients from my garden.

Researchers observed people in households that previously had no plants. After the addition of plants to their gardens, they observed that stress in those people was reduced by 6% which is similar to long-term impacts of eight weekly mindfulness sessions. Forty percent of the participants said they felt more relaxed. Okay, enough of the numbers, what I’m trying to say is that the impact my little garden had on my wellbeing was not just in my imagination. It really can be a great pick-me-up.

A prawn dish I was inspired to cook.

Enter COVID-19…My business (an online grocery store called Washesha) was all of a sudden popular. We were doing deliveries from 7am until 11pm, it had been a while since our service was that popular with households (by design). It was a crazy time after our president decided we were going to enter a national state of disaster and go into alert level 5. We weren’t able to keep up with the demand. As counterintuitive as it sounds, our online store operations had to be paused. All of a sudden, I had less to do, I didn’t know how to be productive and motivated after deciding to pause operations.

My plants when they’re well taken care of.

I had neglected my garden and focused solely on business after the shutdown. When my business slowed down, I couldn’t salvage my garden, I simply didn’t have the will. My once lush garden was now barren and was a reflection of how I felt inside. I was barren of ideas, I lacked motivation and the will to continue with business related activities. The stress was piling up again and I had no outlet to reduce the negative stress that was hounding me. My blog title is overly simplistic, I couldn’t garden away ALL my stress.

The spinach and spring onions were the only plants to survive over 5 months of neglect.

I struggled to get out of bed for months, every morning was a battle. I felt like such a failure for not being able to continue at full capacity with my company. Once again, I wished that I hadn’t left my steady job and decided to become a full-time entrepreneur. The self-doubt became a constant companion. I stopped working on my other business ventures. It was a struggle for me to start pursuing my other ideas again.

An obscure plant growing in a once lush crate that was neglected for several months. I suspect it’s radish.

The reason I could get out of my funk is that in addition to gardening, I have a support system of family and friends that encourage me and help me to keep positive. This village of mine was there for me when I couldn’t turn to gardening or cooking to relax and destress. They reminded me of what I had accomplished and reinforced the fact that I wasn’t a failure. Support systems are just as important as activities that reduce stress. I am now reviving my garden and celebrating that small feat.

Celebrating the small wins. The fact that I was motivated to revive my garden is a big deal.

I also have a slight spring to my step, and I’m looking forward to seeing my new garden blossom. It’s not suprising that my garden was a deadpan representation of my emotional bedlam. As professionals and entrepreneurs, we face so many obstacles in our careers and sometimes, it just takes a bit of a push to get us back on track. I hope to always have the resilience of my mint plant that survived more than five months of neglect and still managed to look this good.

The eternal mint plant.

I’ll be posting pictures of the progress of my new garden so stay tuned. For now, I sip on a good old G&T garnished with my survivalist mint.

Bottoms up! G&T garnished with mint from my garden.

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Kutlwano Hutamo

An adventurers scientist/MBA graduate navigating entrepreneurship and wellness. Semi legal eagle.