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Be Mindful: Gardening shown to have mental health benefits

WELDEN YERBY GROUP PIC
Ben Avalos
Members of the Welden Yerby Senior Community Garden gather for a photo after their monthly meeting. Roughly 50 members tend to 80 plots. Photo by Ben Avalos.

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Relieving stress can be as simple as getting your hands dirty in a garden. If you who don't have green space at home, there is a solution in the form of community gardens across El Paso.

Against the backdrop of the Franklin Mountains, dozens of seniors gathered together at the Welden Yerby Senior Garden in northeast El Paso. While some take a break and chat in the shade on the clubhouse porch, others tend to their growing harvest.

"You can grow anything. Last year, I even grew ginger," said Martha Caldwell. Her friend Vickie Dye chimed in. "You can grow spinach, onions, lettuce -- everything. Carrots. Someone has grown peanuts."

Caldwell and Dye grew up on farms and are reveling the return to their roots, pun intended.

"It takes you to another place," said Dye. "You can get physical; you can taste the air and get some sunshine away from your house."

The National Institutes of Health found there is increasing evidence that exposure to plants, green space, and gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health.

Both senior gardeners attest to it.

"It gets me out of the house," Dye said. "It connects you with other people. You're less lonely."

"I just enjoy it," Caldwell said. "It makes me happy. When I see baby plants coming up, it just makes me smile."

Ben Avalos took up gardening when he retired from education. He's been a member of the 80-plot senior garden since 2014, shortly after it relocated to its current location at 9175 Stahala Drive.

"This is my little haven. It gets you away from the stresses of everyday life," Avalos said. He is the primary caregiver for his wife, who is disabled, he added. "When I come here I can just think about growing a tomato plant."

To Avalos, gardening can reflect the ups and downs of life, which is why it's so crucial to mental well-being, he explained.

"Sometimes you plant tomatoes, and a worm might get to them, or squash bugs take over," he said. "You have to dig in, you have to just learn. There's gonna be failures, just like in life, there's failures, and you just overcome them."

The Welden Yerby Senior Garden is open to anyone 55 and older.

Find other El Paso community gardens here.

Article Topic Follows: Be Mindful

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Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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