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Gardening as a Pathway to Mental Health Recovery after Cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment through radiation and chemotherapy takes an emotional, physical and psychological toll on patients. The recovery process can be fraught with stress, including how you will be able to pay for treatment, coming to terms with new physical limitations, and the constant anxiety of how your loved ones are managing this difficult situation.

It is just as important to care for your mental health during treatment and recovery as it is to take care of your physical symptoms. One of the ways that you can occupy your mind and body in a productive way is to find daily tasks that involve both physical and mental stimulation without draining your energy. Some of the common forms of cancer that may require a difficult treatment process include bladder, stomach, breast, kidney, colon, pancreatic, leukemia and lung cancer.

 

How Working with Your Hands Can Reduce Stress

According to some recent studies, working with your hands in the garden can help to alleviate chronic and acute stress. It is often referred to as horticultural therapy and offers patients a sense of pride and satisfaction in their work when they see their gardens growing. This therapy has been proven to be successful with a wide range of psychological issues, but it is especially well-suited for those who may be in a weakened physical state because it is adaptable to a variety of physical abilities and limitations.

 

Depression During and After the Treatment Process

One of the unfortunate realities of chemotherapy and radiation is that many patients experience depression both during and after treatment. The loss of physical capabilities and the exhaustion that follows treatment can make patients feel as though regular tasks are too difficult to bother completing any longer. They may start to lose hope that they can go on to lead fulfilling lives.

While other mental health treatment may be necessary, finding an enjoyable task that a patient can look forward to doing each day is a great supplement. Planting and harvesting their own garden is a way for patients to take a proactive role in their treatment and keep their minds busy on something other than the negative side effects they are facing from treatment. It can also help reduce anxiety, which is often associated with depression. Having a daily task to participate in will prevent patients from dwelling on their limitations and can be a boost to their self-esteem.

 

Tips to Start an Easy Garden

You do not have to be an expert gardener to grow some plants successfully and experience the joy of gardening. In fact, here at Brown’s Greens, we encourage the beginner gardeners in our community to first start their gardening habits by finding a few plants and techniques that are easy and simple in order to build confidence. Go to your local garden center, purchase a pretty pot or two (make sure they have drainage holes at the bottom), a bag of potting soil, and some easy veggie seeds or starts (small plants) that don’t get too big. An associate from the garden center should be able to help you pick out some plants, but we recommend trying some salad greens, carrots, or select herbs, all of which are pretty easy in Colorado. Take them home, plant them into your pot/s, water them nice and deeply after planting, put the pot/s in a mostly sunny area, and patiently wait as they mature. Make sure to keep the soil moist, and ask your local garden center for some advice on simple fertilizing once the plants get a little larger.

Keeping things simple at first and avoiding taking on harder plants and garden systems that have higher risks of failure will help ease you into gardening without discouragement. As you grow in confidence and excitement about growing your garden, you can start converting some of your landscape into garden space and increasing the variety and difficulty of the crops that you plant. But there’s no rush. Gardening should be fun, first and foremost.

In sum, growing a garden can be just what the doctor ordered in terms of preventing depression during the treatment process. Light physical activity and an enjoyable task can help reduce stress and anxiety.

 

Brown’s Greens offers an immediately useful and accessible way to begin composting. Their curbside composting service is excellent and is really helpful in creating steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Coupled with a recycling service, we’ve been able to reduce our regular trash pick up from weekly down to once a month. Nice to see the Colorado Springs community stepping up to do good and lead out as an example for others in the state. - P. WHITNEY
We love the compost service! And of course, the garden they made for my veggies - truly beautiful and functional! - DOROTHY NELSON
Brown's Greens built four raised beds for my vegetable garden -- about six by three feet each -- and filled each one with their best planting mix. As a result, my crop yield has been increased at least four times over. Zach's knowledge of soil content and composition has been especially helpful to me, since the ground in my backyard consists mainly of hard clay. I couldn't be happier with the results! - JIM WARE
Very pleased with Brown's Greens services. My husband and I started to realize how much food waste we were producing from our juicing regimen and wanted to find a better option than the trash. Brown's Greens was simple to set up, very reasonably priced, and they've been right on time each week to pick up. - NICOLE BIRD
1. I always thought about composting but really didn’t know how to get started. I used Browns Greens for some landscaping (which they did beautifully and on budget!) and noticed their compost service on their website. I’ve been enrolled in their weekly bucket pickup/drop off service for a month now, and I love it. They are prompt, the fresh buckets are nice & clean, and it feels amazing to make good use of my food and garden scraps instead of clogging up the trash. I’m excited to receive my compost when the time comes.

2. *UPDATE* Just had to add to this review since we had Browns Greens return for more landscaping. I asked Zach for ideas to replace all the grass in the front yard, and he drew up a beautiful plan. His crew did all of the work in two and a half days, and it’s stunning. We have a dry riverbed with beautiful stones, and boulder-studded berms on either side planted with native shrubs and perennials, all set up with drip irrigation to help them flourish. (The attached photo doesn’t really do it justice — the plants are still babies, and the berms are higher than the pic makes them appear.) The crew is friendly, hard working, and they all clearly love their jobs. I cannot say enough wonderful things about everything this company does. - MANDY HOUK
Brown's Greens is a great local company! Zach Brown and his team planned and created a wonderful landscape for our backyard, including beautiful borders, mulched areas, and raised beds which have given our family veggies for 3 years. The work was done right, quickly, and the price competitive. We highly recommend Browns Greens! - TERRI MOON
Great customer service. Always friendly. Dedicated to making the world a better place. - NICOLE LANE
Easiest, affordable, professional company that makes home composting so accessible!! Highly recommend them for your home composting needs! - CAROLINE MARGARET
I love Brown's Greens! I have wanted to do composting for a while but just don't have the time to do it on my own, and it is so inconvenient to take it somewhere else. But now it is picked up at my house once a week! They are always consistent in sending weekly reminders and picking it up. And I receive compost back to put in my garden, and my garden is loving it. So glad I can participate in cutting down on landfill space, improving air quality, AND in blessing the ground and the city in this way. Thank you, Brown's Greens! - ALISON WARE
We were thrilled with the outstanding service and quality of work that we had done by Brown's Greens. The prices were reasonable and the work was done right on schedule. We can heartily recommend Brown's Greens for any outdoor landscape or garden project! - CAROL FORSETH