Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Gardening for immunity

Blueberry Superfood. C. Martin Mulchinock

Never before has it been so important to boost our immunity and keep healthy. Those of us lucky enough to have a garden are blessed not only with the space to grow our own food, but the wherewithal to improve our health and wellbeing.

For some just being out in the garden and getting some sunshine rays on their faces is enough to lift the spirits and calm the soul. Even without a garden a little bit of tree hugging, nature bathing or breathing in the sunshine can revitalize a weary head and an aching heart. Nature is a healer. Those of us that garden, know the benefits she brings, but when times are tough we don’t always think to harness her healing and kindness, just when we need it the most.

Sunshine Vitamin

Whatever your beliefs, science has proven that getting your hands in the soil and being close to beneficial microbes is healthy for us. And topping up the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D boosts our immunity. This previously unsung vitamin has been heralded a game changer in the fight against Coronavirus. But don’t think an hour in the sunshine gives you what you need. Most of our bodies are covered when gardening so our skin doesn’t get exposed to the sun and the vitamin D goodness. Do your research, check with your pharmacist and make sure you take a supplement to boost your immune system. It could really be a game changer in the fight against this deadly virus.

Vitamin boosts

Immune Boosting Garlic. C. Jean Vernon

It’s not just vitamin D that supports our immune system. There’s a whole cocktail of vitamins and nutrients and extracts that our body uses, needs or blends to keep us healthy. Fresh homegrown veg that has been picked moments before cooking or eating preserves so many more of the essential nutrients we need and crave. Spring greens, wild garlic, kale and shoots and sprouts can all help top up our vitamins and introduce all sorts of good things to our diet. Anti-oxidants rich plants are hailed as super foods, there’s been a game show conveyor belt of candidates for this title from goji berries, to blueberries, broccoli and beetroot and when grown without chemical dressings their power for health and well-being is multiplied.

Thyme is a powerful healer. C. Martin Mulchinock

Growing nutrient rich ingredients full of colour and flavour will strengthen your immune system and add vibrant hues to the garden; a great choice for body and soul. Look for colour rich ingredients to introduce different phytonutrients’ and antioxidants to your diet.

Vitamin C

My winter immune boosting kit includes vitamin C and echinacea. Both are proven immune enhancers and help the body fight off colds and flu. The current pandemic has moved the goal posts and lockdown has reduced the incidence of colds and flus. The Coronavirus has torn through families and communities, with devastating effects. The vaccine rollout will make a difference, but we all need to keep our eye on the ball and do everything we possibly can to keep our loved ones safe and well. Boost your vitamin C by growing vegetables and fruit rich in this nutrient. Good things to grow include winter squash, kale, broccoli, red peppers and tomatoes.


Elderberry Elixir – bottled for winter use. C. Jean Vernon

The Elder tree is a fascinating source of all types of materials. Its hollow stems were used as blow pipes to stoke fires, peashooters for the children and as pipes for musical instruments. Its flowers are the basis for elderflower cordial and elderflower champagne, a refreshing summers drink, but it is the dark purple black berries that harbor incredible immune boosting powers. Boiled into syrup with sugar and spices the resulting elixir is hailed as a flu inhibitor and said to short circuit flu. It is now available commercially, but at an extortionate cost. Be prepared to get out into the hedgerows this autumn and make your own. It stores well and is a powerful winter immune booster that anyone can make and have handy.

Herbs and flowers

Plenty of our garden herbs have healing and immune boosting actions. Thyme, sage and rosemary are known for their medicinal benefits. Grow these woodier plants for year round leaves for teas and tisanes or simple, flavorful ingredients. Garlic is another easy to grow ingredient with immune enhancing properties, as are the other members of the family including onions and chives. Adding freshly picked herbs to your menus introduces vitamins, nutrients and other vitals to your diet, never mind the benefits of growing your own and gardening.