5 important life lessons about gardening from Peter Cundall

Rose Mary Petrass

Gardening seedlings

Peter Cundall, most known to Australians as the former face of ABC’s Gardening Australia, was a fierce environmentalist who fought for decades to protect Tasmania’s wilderness. 

Peter Cundall

Peter Cundall passed away peacefully last Sunday at the age of 94

The English-born horticulturalist taught us all to love organic gardening, getting our hands in the dirt and growing our own food. He was also a fierce environmentalist who urged environmentalists to “never ever give up”.

Cundall helped establish the Organic Gardening and Farming Society of Tasmania in the 1970s, and as chairman of the Tasmania Wilderness Society fought against the construction of the Bell Bay pulp mill in Tasmania. 

The prominent Tasmanian broadcasting and gardening personality who was intensely private passed away peacefully last Sunday at the age of 94. 

Here’s what he taught us all about the importance of gardening. 

Gardening teaches patience 

Gardening teaches us about the importance of slowing down. It teaches us about the importance of patience in an impatient world. In an age of information overload and instant gratification, planting a seed and watching it grow literally forces us to slow down and take note of the little things. Gardening teaches us the importance of caring for something other than ourselves.

Gardening is a mood-booster 

Numerous studies have found that gardening has myriad benefits for the mind and soul. It has been found to reduce behavioural problems and increase self esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, improve cognitive function and may reduce the effects of dementia. Studies have also found that gardening helps people overcome addiction

Gardening is beneficial for the planet

For many people, watching the gradually accelerating effects of climate change is causing increased daily stress levels and a sense of guilt. Ecoanxiety, as it is known, is feelings of “helplessness, depression, fear, fatalism, resignation” caused by “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations”, according to the American Psychological Association. 

Gardening is a good way to counteract this feeling, as by growing plants we are contributing in a very small way to help absorb carbon dioxide and creating a habitat for insects, birds, and other small animals to make their home.

Gardening improves community well-being

Community gardens, school gardens and family gardens help strengthen community bonds and foster improved well-being in participants, and help reduce feelings of loneliness

You could even join a community gardening group – most cities and suburbs have established community gardens available for locals to join. They usually meet once a month or so for social events and to swap seeds and gardening advice. 

The Community Garden Australia’s (CGA) map can help you locate local community gardens across Australia.

Gardening can help people overcome addiction, reduce anxiety and depression, and strengthen community well-being.
The Community Garden Australia’s (CGA) map can help you locate local community gardens across Australia.

Grow your own garden 

Living in the inner city can mean that you have limited space available, so maybe you have never thought of gardening as a possibility for you.

But having limited space doesn’t mean that you can’t utilise it. Many green-thumbed city-slickers have window sills or balconies where they can grow plants or even a small veggie patch. You could even hang your plants from curtain rods or hooks – provided that your plants are not too heavy. 

If you live in a house, most landlords allow tenants to plot a garden, while apartment dwellers can contact their strata to see if it may be a possibility for them. 

Start small – by growing seedlings in empty egg cartons or cardboard coffee cups, before transferring them to bigger pots when they are big enough. 

Many local community gardening groups have established plots of land they offer to some members to plant their own veggies or other plants. These are larger than what you could grow in an apartment, and you get the benefit of others advice and a sense of community to go along with it. 

Happy gardening!