I’ve gardened all my life and cannot imagine how I would feel if illness forced me to stop. Two years ago, it’s what faced Shawna Coronado when she was diagnosed with severe degenerative osteoarthritis. How she manages it and the role gardening plays are chronicled in her latest book, The Wellness Garden.
Shawna’s condition caused severe pain and a curtailing of her gardening; in the past, she had planted around 3,000 vegetables a year.
“There would be no more hefting 50-pound bags on my shoulders, weeding for eight hours straight, or heavy digging in the garden,” she tells us.
It was a situation that left her feeling “devastated”. Determined not to simply take strong painkillers, she decided to explore alternative ways of improving her condition.
These included working with a dietician to radically change her diet and incorporating exercise into her daily routine.
And it’s these steps that are outlined in The Wellness Garden, which is more self-help guide than traditional gardening book.
Key to her approach is eating well, specifically eating more vegetables, while she points out that growing them organically yourself ensures they are as fresh as possible and chemical-free.
To help, the book has a chart giving the nutritional breakdown of suggested crops and tips on raising them without chemicals from making compost to correct watering. There are also ideas for those who have little growing space, such as containers and ‘living walls’.
Growing food is just one aspect of The Wellness Garden and the importance of gardens to mental health is also explored. Shawna advocates daily exercise outside be walking in a nearby park or yoga in your own garden and suggests using parks or even garden centres.
“Clearly, growing is important, but having that regular exposure to nature and the outside world is critical,” she says.
There’s advice on choosing tools to avoid straining muscles and suggestions for garden layout that make growing easier, while not doing one garden job for too long prevents injury from repetition.
The book ends with ideas for ‘therapeutic gardening’, including how to design a therapy garden or design a scented space.
Little in the book is new – the importance of eating ‘five a day’ and regular exercise have long been known – but the personal story quality make it very readable and the advice is valid whether you have severe illness or not.
• The Wellness Garden by Shawna Coronado is published by Cool Springs Press, RRP £16.99. Buy now (If you buy via the link, I get a small payment. The price you pay is not affected.
• Review copy supplied by Cool Springs Press.
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