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In the garden with Sophie Thomson

sophie thomson

We’re thrilled to welcome South Australian gardening guru Sophie Thomson as a regular gardening writer.

In her first column, she explains why she’s passionate about working with the soil – and why we should be too.

An elixir for life

I am an obsessive, compulsive gardener and I am totally biased, however I genuinely believe that gardening is an elixir for life – our lives and life in our communities, our cities, our country and around the world. There are numerous studies which prove the personal benefits of gardening which fall into four main areas. Gardens provide us with exercise, relaxation, physical and mental health, and optimal nutrition when we grow some of our own organic vegies, herbs and fruits.


Gardening works all the major muscle groups, improves strength and endurance, and increases mobility and flexibility. We also know that an increase in muscle strength is associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia. Some studies suggest that 45 minutes of gardening is equal to a 30 minute gym workout, so if you have your own garden, you have your own 24/7 gym with no membership fees and no trying to look good in lycra or active wear.


Visualise how you feel after a tough day or two hours stuck in the traffic. Now think about what it feels like to walk in a beautiful garden. Feel your shoulders drop as your tension and the weight of the world slips away. Take a deep breath, and become aware of your heart rate slowing down. Just being in a garden helps us to relax, and gives us a sanctuary from our fast-paced, crazy lives. And, if you have really had a bad day at work, get your secateurs out and take your frustration out on something that needs pruning. I hate to admit there are some plants that I brutalised last autumn and that are never going to come back!

Physical health

The evidence is clear – gardening is brilliant for our physical health with benefits ranging from improved medical outcomes and faster recovery rates, to lower blood pressure, reduced heart disease and improved longevity. I’d like to prescribe a recommended daily intake of gardening for all of us – two hours’ gardening per day.

Mental health

A growing body of research shows that gardening helps us to prevent depression and anxiety by dealing with stress. When there is a mental health issue, gardening is a great way to treat it. Can you believe that half of us, 51 per cent of Australians, use social media to manage their stress, despite this making us feel more stressed, depressed and isolated? In contrast, is there anything more optimistic than planting a seed? As Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.


Growing food in your garden is not only a lot of fun, it puts you and your family on the road to eating well. It provides you with a healthy source of inexpensive, fresh, nutrient-dense, seasonal produce and when you grow it yourself, food miles become food metres.

So gardeners, garden on knowing that it really is good for you! If you are a non-gardener, why not have a go – who knows what the outcome will be? You might find you get hooked. Before you know it, you’ll have better health, flowers and even tomatoes!

Do you have a gardening question for our next issue?
Ask Sophie via goodlivesmag@ach.org.au

Heading to the Show in September? Make sure you stop in at Sophie’s feature garden, Habitat, at the Goyder Pavilion. Here Sophie aims to show how your garden can provided essential shelter, food and water for our native creatures.


We have a family pass (two adults, two children) to this year’s Royal Adelaide Show (September 1 to 10) to give away. Using the subject line ‘Show’, email your name, phone number and address to goodlivesmag@ach.org.au and you’ll be in the running to win. Good luck!

Enter by 25 August 2017. For full terms and conditions go to www.achgroup.org.au/news/goodlivesmagazine