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006. Health Benefits of Gardening: Simple Ways to Start

Part of staying healthy and building your immune system is by eating nutritious food. As the world is changing, and access to quality nutritious food is in short supply, it is important that we empower ourselves to learn how to garden.

Our conversation today is with the amazing Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung. Dr. Fawzia is a retired Psychiatrist, Journalist and Educator. She is also an avid gardener. She has gardened on the small scale and large scale. She shares her gardening journey with us, and tips on how to get started.  

You’ll want to empower yourself with this hands-on video!

Episode Highlights with Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung

  • Gardening journey from a brown thumb to a green thumb 😄
  • We discuss benefits of gardening
  • We discuss simple tips on how to start a garden
  • Dr. Fawzia showed us how to start a simple garden

Connect with Dr. Fawzia via email at [email protected] 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Gardening Series where we discuss finding Spirituality & Mental Wellness through Gardening

Show Transcript

Introduction (1s):
Welcome to the Wellness Surge podcast with Dr. Adeola Oke. Each week we discuss our wellness journey with real people like you and me. We have conversations about food, fitness, mental health, financial wellness, and much more. So you can get back to the real you to make sure that you’re up to date with this and other wellness topics. Visit wellnesssurge.com. Information presented here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of the information presented here without first speaking with your primary care provider. Now let’s head onto the show.

Dr. Adeola Oke (32s):
Hello everybody. Welcome to the Wellness Surge Podcast. I am your hostess. My name is Dr. Adeola Oke. Today, we have Dr. Fawzia Mai Tung with us today, and we’ll be talking about the health benefits of gardening. Simple ways to get started. Alrighty, Dr. Fawzia is a retired psychiatrist, journalist, and educator. She has tons of experience under her belt, and I would just know that she’s so passionate about gardening and I wanted her to come here today, discuss her experience with this.

Dr. Adeola Oke (1m 6s):
I really interested about gardening and why should you be too? Right? Well, part of staying healthy, has to do with eating nutritious foods to make your immune system balanced, and make it to be able to work well for you, right? But you know, as the world is changing and access to healthy, nutritious food is, is really like starting to be on the decline, especially because if you think about the Corona virus situation, when we had to stay at home for a little while, and most of us were too scared to go out to go and get healthy food.

Dr. Adeola Oke (1m 40s):
Well guess what? A lot of us gained a lot of weight. Well, me, for an example, I did because I do have access to like good vegetables and stuff like that. Let’s get, let’s learn about gardening so that we can empower ourselves and do ourselves a favor to better, better our immune system and also better the world. So if this should ever happen to us again, we won’t be in a situation where we don’t have healthy, nutritious split. Alrighty, Dr. Fawzia Tung thank you so much for your time and talking to us today.

Dr. Adeola Oke (2m 13s):
So can you just tell us a little bit about your gardening journey?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (2m 17s):
When I was young, if you told me I had a work gardening journey. I would have laughed in your face because I was well known to have two Brown thumbs. My mum told me I had much fire in my tiny vessel which is why I killed everything. I tried to grow. A friend, gave me a cactus and I managed to kill it. So I never thought that would do anything like this. But by the time I got married and had my first child and I was trying to teach him lots of things.

Dr. Adeola Oke (2m 43s):
When he was young, one year, one year and a half by one year and a half, he knew 150 animals names by, you know, by sight. But he couldn’t tell a single plant from another one? And I would say, what’s wrong with this child. And then I realized there was nothing wrong with him. Only with me.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (2m 59s):
We saw the It, you know, show through our attitude without words. Okay. Tone of voice. Whether we like something or not, whether we’re passionate about it or not. And obviously I was not passionate about science and he picked on that. So he felt like that’s is not something interesting. So I decided to change that I’m going to start gardening, but knowing that I would kill everything I’m I didn’t want to spend money on buying anything. So I only got plant compost and I got started. So I tried to put some orange pips and I tried to put other things from the kitchen, you know?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (3m 34s):
Well what I read about in the newspaper like cut the top of your carrots, the bottom of your green onions and so on. So I did that and to my great surprise, they grew in an apartment on the window sill. That was the beginning of my journey. The orange pips actually took much longer. By the time I was done with the whole gardening activity for my kid. And I was trying to pour out all the soil. I screamed that I saw some worms. It wasn’t a worm. It was the orange pips that started growing its roots was smooth was white and a little bit squirmy looking.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (4m 8s):
So I thought it was worm, but it wasn’t and not realize at that point. That was my very first lesson. Grasses don’t grow at the same rate as tree. So yeah, it’s been quite the journey.

Dr. Adeola Oke (4m 21s):
Wow.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (4m 22s):
I am today talking about gardening.

Dr. Adeola Oke (4m 26s):
Yeah. I also always thought that I could not plant anything. Like I had a little plant and like in my, like next to my window seal and I killed a plant. So I always thought, you know, I can’t do this. And I actually just started getting my hands a little dirty. And one day I put some soil and plants in the soil and I put water through it and I’m like Ahh its growing! and I was really excited. So I have not done so much of it because I don’t feel, I don’t feel like I know how to do it really well.

Dr. Adeola Oke (4m 57s):
And so that’s why I would like us to learn about all this. So first and foremost, right? This is all about wellness. Can you share like three health benefits of gardening?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (5m 7s):
Well, the first one is physical exercise. You know, as you can see, it’s the early morning and living in a very hot place like Arizona, if I could help it, I would stay home the whole time in the air condition, which as you know, it’s really bad air out here with so much wind to air, it’s all the, in that filtered air all the toxins are taken out the poisons are taken out so you have lots of oxygen . So the fresh air is good for you. And so I’m out here in the early morning when it’s not too hot, tending you my garden watering and so on. So forth.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (5m 37s):
Now, even if I do nothing but hosing, you know, watering them . I find that from my bone that I walk on average, 1,200 steps, just walking around, watering them. And if I were doing more there, there’s so much more exercise. For example, if you look at these three here, this is an orange street and when I have to pick oranges in the winter. Oh my God, you have the time to climb the tree so climbing trees-

Dr. Adeola Oke (6m 4s):
Climb a tree?! You climb a tree. You?! Oh yeah! Well, yeah, this is the thing you keep young gardening keeps you young.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (6m 11s):
Okay? I not only climb a tree. I climbed the roof because I have all these pigeons and I cannot bring myself to kill the pigeon. So it had lots of pigeons on the roof and it poop up a lot. So every few months I had to climb on the roof and hose down all the poop and they make wonderful fertilizer. I tell you, the second benefit of course is actually physical. You get to eat really, really healthy food Apples. These are dessert, apples, almonds.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (6m 45s):
Waiting to be picked, not quite yet ready, but coming there for great organic food all year round here are for example, we are now end of May going into June. We have a lot of grapes,

Dr. Adeola Oke (7m 3s):
So this is all good. Okay. So if , what if somebody wanted to start

Dr. Fawzia Tung (7m 9s):
put it simply, there are two ways to start a plant. One is to seed. So seeds is sexual reproduction, and then you have asexual reproductive needs that we’ll take a comb,ofthe original parent plant and grow it. And that is the most sure way of getting it done. So you are get something exactly like the parents. And though I was teaching biology and also at the bottom. Mmm. And I got a lot of my early starts to start to start up knowledge from my, my involvement.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (7m 41s):
Academic Knowledge. But I realized very quickly that there was a lot of hands on things that you need to learn. So if your plants say the bottom of your green onion, you’re really allowing the green onion to re root itself, and then to grow the same leaves of the same plant. You know, it was just cloning the plant over and over and over again. And can do that in a lot of things in your fridge and a lot of things in your pantry onions, potatoes grows like crazy over here. So you can always be sure to have a good crop.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (8m 14s):
So that’s what I’m taking you through the next area where I have prepared some stuff, Oh, wait a minute. Before we go there, if you have a garden before you learned about types of soil and all those things, the simplest way is not to bother about type of soil. So this is what I did here. You can do a raised bed, a raised bed means. So this for example is a raised bed. So this is a really big one that was built how the concrete blocks, but then there are simpler ways of doing this.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (8m 51s):
Here, for example, this one that I highly recommend, this is from Home Depot. So there’s still this kind of this.

Dr. Adeola Oke (9m 1s):
We, I, we didn’t see what you were showing us

Dr. Fawzia Tung (9m 3s):
Can you see it like that?

Dr. Adeola Oke (9m 5s):
What is that? So these are a block and here I have two blocks. Okay. So two blocks and then you buy it two by six. Okay. And so I made it two levels high can make stuff with just one level high. So I put a two by six, you can put two of them and just bought by a lot of compost and fill it up.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (9m 30s):
And that’s it. You can make it that small, as large as you want. So for example, you can, you can have a four foot long.

Dr. Adeola Oke (9m 38s):
Hold when when you say compost is our soil, what is that? So you want to break it down to us, for those of us that have no clue. So if you go to any gardening center, my favorite is always Home Depot because believe it or not they’re cheaper than nurseries. It’s more expensive than what I sell right there in Home Depot. So it’s bags of soil. So the soil is it’s called compost because what they use to make it is to decompose organic material, you know, wood, grass, or whatever it is.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (10m 8s):
And once that decomposes, it turns into a rich black soil. So you can buy all kinds of types of brands of compost in Home Depot. One of my favorite actually is mushroom compost. So now let’s move back to that area where I’m going to show you how to plant something. So that was in a raised bed. Raised beds are very easy to do, and you can use anything. There are all kinds of places that sell you materials for raised bed. So you can do it out of wood, out of blocks, out of anything.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (10m 41s):
But I find this one to be the easiest, because if you’re not good with a hammer and a nail, all I have to do is buy those blocks. Yeah, they are. They don’t have a specific name, but they’re just called blocks. But they are made in such a way that there are two slots four slots on all four sides. And you just a slit, slide, a piece of wood in that slot and you put one on each corner and you’re done. All right. So here we are. Now I have puts together here, stuff that you can use it to start a garden, even in your own home.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (11m 14s):
If you’re in an apartment and you don’t have any access to an actual garden. So here first we have a pot. Okay. Always make sure you have addition to the pot because the pot must have a bowl. Okay, good to know, because the water needs to drain. You don’t want to drown them in soggy soul. And so they would end up just becoming extremely would grow. And then the roots will die. So you must have drainage at the bottom, but once you have drainage, you have water and solar all over your carpeting or your whatever, wherever you put it.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (11m 50s):
So you need a dish under it. Okay. Secondly, do you need some compost, Like I said, I’m using right now, is mushroom compost, what to plant is simply here. I’m going to show you what I gathered stuff from the kitchen, potato sweet potato, ginger, carrots. I already chopped off the top. Onions, garlic. Well, the bottom of green onions.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (12m 21s):
Yeah. So this is what you’re to, you can do these out straight from your kitchen, your, your pantry, and you don’t need to spend extra money on these.

Dr. Adeola Oke (-):
So you’re telling me I can plant something like garlic from my refrigerator.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (12m 30s):
Yes. Just take out your garlic and plant it. Think garlic is amazing. We normally eat only the ball of the garlic. Okay. So but you can actually also eat the greens. So when gardens go, we will see that they look a little bit like green onions, but they’re flatter.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (13m 3s):
And you can just snip though. Mmm. For the big event, just put salt. I mean, yeah. Major on if you do it in ground, I like to add some steer manure. So this is steer manure right there. Steer manure.

Dr. Adeola Oke (13m 30s):
What type of manure is that?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (13m 32s):
Steer.That means the poop of a cow or a male cow2. I like to mix that in, send them, so here I’m mixing two handfuls of them into my compost because it’s a ready made. Okay. So that will save me. I like to use organic fertilizer. Not, not chemicals ones. Yes. One of the goals of helping with the environment would be friendly.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (14m 8s):
You don’t want to destroy them. Cool. So this for example is the bottom of a green onion. Okay. All you have to do is chop it off.

Dr.Adeola Oke (14m 19s):
Okay. We can’t see the onion.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (14m 22s):
Okay chop it off, can you see that?

Dr. Adeola Oke (14m 25s):
No, I can’t see that far. Okay. Okay. Now I see this one.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (14m 28s):
It already has roots. So all you have to do is make your hole stick it in, stick it it in cover it with soil and believe it or not by tomorrow or after tomorrow there’ll be a bit of green coming up already.

Dr.Adeola Oke (14m 40s):
So we cover it completely?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (14m 43s):
Oh yeah. These are garlics okay, garlic cloves and you can simply stick it in and cover it. Okay. But if you want to remember where it is you can leave it out, but that doesn’t matter. You can just tell them, okay. So you’ve planted in this side in this is root side where the greens are going to go and here are where the root are going to go stick it in. And that’s it. Now something bigger, like an onion.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (15m 14s):
You can either chop off the bare bottom, or put the whole onion in that works too, Oh, here’s a carrot for the carrots. Cut the top. And you put it this way in. You put the bottom end because it’s going to grow from here and roots are going to grow from here. So we put it in like that. And then we can put a bit of ginger in, okay. There is some ginger and ginger, is that the same thing? All of these and these, as you can either chop them into two or three pieces or put it directly or completely all of it into the soil.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (15m 51s):
And it will grow. So the entire plot I had of sweet potatoes over there. Were grown from one like this, and now it’s gone entirely 4×4. Okay. Now, once you put everything in, all you have to do is water. So here we go. Just water it steady. Now. How to water. because planting is the easy part.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (16m 24s):
Maintaining it and letting it grow is the hard part. Which it took me ages to learn. The first thing to learn is how to water always water completely. So you have to water it until you see the water coming up on the bucket. Okay? So that you know that all the soil, all the entire soil has been completely soaked. Now, how often do water, with your finger.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (16m 56s):
So here I’m wearing gloves, but you use your finger and every day you can just stick it in. And if that completely soggy, but if you find the is still moist, then let’s say one inch. Then that means it doesn’t need watering. If it is a dry, the top layer. So here’s my << inaudible>> . Now I just pulled it up, if the top layer is dry. Then it’s time to water again, where to keep it. Well, if you’re in an apartment, you don’t want to keep it in a sunny area, like a window sill, because that’s obviously when I’m not going to go without water, we need water to grow.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (17m 30s):
So you do need water to grow plants eventually, depending on how much your plants need and what type of plants you are, you may decide to change the position. If it’s a, this is another whole topic where to put the plants. So the importance to catch some stuff. Okay? Because if you well put it in the sun, it’s going to grow really really leggy, and May not grow very healthily. And then there are many tips on how to make it more bushy and more healthy by, you know, what do they call it? Either tipping or pinching or pruning or whatever it’s called.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (18m 3s):
And you can get to bush your planting. Something that you want to eat. You usually keep them out of the sun. So keep them where, but be careful. Sometimes you think, Oh, I’ve put it under my window. Actually, that’s the spot with the least sun. Because if you look at your window, the sun comes in at an angle. It will not come overhead because we have a roof over the head. So I’m not going to come through the ceiling. So it’s going to come at an angle and you can watch the angle. Yeah. And go, we’ll go into your house, maybe at a table or something. That’s near that window, but not under right under the window is completely in shade.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (18m 37s):
You know, it’s complete shade shadow. So under the window, right by the sides of window are very, very shady areas. You move your pot either outside your window. If you have a window sill from the. Something else, so whatever you have that is close to the window and say a couple of feet away. Okay. So not right under. Yeah. So any other questions?

Dr. Adeola Oke (18m 58s):
Alrighty. That was a lot. So thank you. I never knew I could bring out, like go to the store, a regular store, buy garlic, buy onion, and just go to my garden or I, this plant, I thought I had to buy special plants to plant. So yes. That’s how naive. And that’s how ignorant I am. And I’m sure a lot of people will benefit from all this knowledge so if I buy stuff, instead of me putting it in the trash, I can just go plant it in my backyard. So that’s exactly, that’s amazing.

Dr. Adeola Oke (19m 32s):
That’s amazing. And, and you were just talking about a lot. I’ve seen a lot of things. It’s the whole thing is about not getting frustrated. Right? How is that? Is there any, like any simple tip about not to get first about not getting frustrated in this whole process of the learning?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (19m 48s):
You remember when you had your first child, your first child, you had more than one, you will realize that your first child was an experiment and you did what you thought was right. And you saw, Oh, this works, Oh, this doesn’t work. And you ask your friends for advice. You’ll ask a mom, your mother-in-law for advice. And that’s exactly what you do in gardening. You can plant some things. Some are going grow well, some are not going to grow. Well, you have no idea. What’s wrong. You ask your friends, you ask people, who’ve done it.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (20m 18s):
And nowadays you ask online, it’s easy to start. Just like having babies. You have a baby, that’s it. You’re a mom, you know? But then, then you start learning, you know? Well, between being a mom and being a good mom, well, there’s a, there’s a big gulf. And then you, you learn, you, you, you take baby steps and you learn how to do that. And half the time they will teach you, for example, cool. I would say, Oh, how come this grows? well, and that doesn’t, Oh, the position is different. This one gets more sun. That one doesn’t,

Dr. Adeola Oke (20m 48s):
Who’ve talked about a lot. Okay. And I know what I’ve learned from all this, but what is one thing that you want to make sure that people take away from this session today? Because this is just the beginning, right? This is like I said, we all have to empower ourselves to be able to get healthy food when it’s not, when it’s not made readily available to us in the stores. So what is one thing you want to make sure people take away from here, from here today?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (21m 15s):
You can do it! gardening. I mean, look at me. I was a Brown thumb, some double Brown thumb. And here I am having a garden full of food year round. Yeah. Around that. I have things in the winter, things in the summer, things in the fall that that can eat from my garden anytime of the year. And right now, and every year I experiment on new plants. So I have banana trees now. And I’m going to see if I get to eat bananas this year, orange is oranges like years and years ever since I came to Arizona and orange is a good thing to try because it’s almost impossible.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (21m 53s):
to go wrong with oranges and lemons. There’s almost, gardening’s a no fail thing. Yes. You will lose some plants, but again, not more. Okay. And like I said, don’t waste money. If you’re a newbie, don’t waste money. Just start with whatever you love in your kitchen, in your fridge or pantry. And you can start there by the time you are good at raising a few plants, then go next. So like seeding your own plan, for example, or buy you little tree or something, if you have a full yard. So after years of doing my little gardening on my little balcony and my window seals, I moved here to Arizona.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (22m 27s):
And the first couple of years I lived my mom in law in a place that had 80 acres. So all of a sudden from the, my apartment, I went to 80 acres. I didn’t know how to deal with. Yeah. So, like I said, I’ve done it on a big scale. I’ve done it on a small scale and now I’ve done. I’m doing it on the scale that I can handle. And it’s a joy. It’s also, that was the second, the second wellness, the second health part is eating good organic food.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (22m 57s):
And a third thing that you can benefit from it is actually mental, mental health. I cannot tell how many times you get stressed out it, come out here, sit under your tree. So I make quite a number of seating areas in my garden that I can, I have a hammock. I can see the hammock here. So here’s my hammock, right? I’ve got these painted chest. I make them pleasant under the tree, right?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (23m 28s):
You have seats. I make a, here, I have a chair that I made cements and a painted the cement, I colored the cement I colored my throne. So you go to one of the spots that you have, you sit there, you sip your favorite drink for me, will be Pepsi. I’m sorry, that’s something I can’t get rid of and tea, juice, whatever you want to sip. And then you can suddenly you feel at peace, you look at all of these and you see nature and you see God’s great work on earth.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (24m 3s):
And you realize that whatever you were stressing out about is really not important in the great scheme of things. And so the third benefit is mental health. Okay. Okay.

Dr. Adeola Oke (24m 14s):
You said three benefits and I got a fourth one. Okay. One is, I know organic food is expensive. So if I can plant it in my backyard, can, I don’t need to pay so much money to go buy good food seriously, because I’m all about financial wellness, balanced with mental and physical wellness. So if I can get it cheap in my buck yet, please, I’m going to learn how to do it. So that’s my, that’s what I learned from this. That’s the benefit

Dr. Fawzia Tung (24m 42s):
Mint costs at a supermarket. You have a teeny tiny Sprig and it’s $5. Well, look at this.

Dr. Adeola Oke (24m 51s):
Yes. I can say that.

Dr. Fawzia Tung (24m 53s):
Mint that I put in about couple of months ago, and it’s already this much, so maintain a great grower in our hot weather. And I put in my tea, I put making myself, put me whatever we can put it in. I put it in

Dr. Adeola Oke (25m 7s):
And, and a good benefit of mint is it, it helps with digestion. So let’s say you go pig out and you like, Oh, I feel bloated. Mint helps with digestion. And it also makes you not feel so hungry. So that’s a good benefit of mint. So I guess what I’m getting from all you’re saying is this, when you just sit down in nature, you just relax, just being in the forest, kind of heals you. You like, even people like we cancer and other illnesses when they’re just going to the forest, it just heals them. And so that’s what I’m getting from, like your backyard garden. You’re able to kind of achieve that.

Dr. Adeola Oke (25m 38s):
Even like the smell, you know, like the aroma therapy, right. We get all this oils that are upfront plants, right. And be like vanilla and all that. And so that’s what I’m getting, like the mental health part of it and the soothing and calming effects of all this plants and nature. You’re sitting in,

Dr. Fawzia Tung (25m 54s):
There is actually a fourth benefit, but I think we are going to have a separate episode on it. So I’m not going to mention it right now, but there’s a fourth. Yeah.

Dr. Adeola Oke (26m 2s):
So this is all good. If we wanted to get ahold of you, like, because seriously garden gardening is a journey, right. And to be able to better equip ourselves, we need advice. Is there a way we can get ahold of you outside of the shell?

Dr. Fawzia Tung (26m 16s):
I have a blog and I have YouTube channel, but, and I have, I have a podcast, but the easiest way pretty much is to email me. So my email is F as in Frank, T as in Tom, F T C as in Charlie, M as in Mary, T as in Tom, number five, <inaudible> at gmail.com. And if you email me there, tell me that you’ve heard about me from this show and then

Dr. Adeola Oke (26m 43s):
Yeah. Any gardening questions, I would be ready to answer them. Okay. Alrighty. Alrighty. So this is Dr. Fawzia, a retired psychiatrist, journalist and educator. She was a Brown thumb and she now has a beautiful garden. If she can do it. I believe I can do it. I’m like, I’m not going to sell my self short. I can totally do it. So, because I, I couldn’t plant anything for all the money you gave me, like it used to die. So, but I’m learning that it is possible. Alrighty, Dr. Fawzia. Like she said, we’re going to invite her some other time to talk about another episode about spirituality and mental wellness through gardening. All right. So stay tuned for that. And I’ll let you know when that is coming up. Dr. Fawzia, it was a pleasure having you on here today. Thank you so much for your time. And I hope you all learned something today, because I did. Have a good day now. Bye bye. Bye. Thank you.

Ending (27m 44s):
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