VTCNA Health Tip: As Onion Snow Melts, Cannabis Gardening Begins

Jessilyn Dolan 25 Mar 2019

With the first day of spring – also known as the vernal equinox – on March 20, we witnessed the last supermoon of 2019: the super worm equinox moon. The name comes from this exact time of year, when snow starts to melt and worms start emerging from the ground. But, that may be somewhat delayed after this weekend with our latest round of Onion Snow, a nickname for late-season spring snowfall.

With outdoor gardening and cannabis cultivation season on its way, I wanted to encourage more people to get their hands in the dirt and start prepping for growing this spring.

Monty Don in Gardeners’ World Magazine states, “We know that gardening is good for you. It is fantastic, all-round exercise. That is easy to see and evaluate. It inculcates high levels of well-being. That is undeniable and needs little measurement.”

He articulated how gardening can treat mental health issues, as he opened up about his own struggles with depression. “We know that it is extremely effective in alleviating and preventing mental illness. But, almost all the evidence of gardening being an effective treatment or preventative of mental illness is empirical. However, people are now taking this empirical evidence very seriously and it’s being researched in the way pharmaceutical or other conventional treatments are researched. And, it costs nothing other than the time to go outside and tend to your garden.”

I particularly agree with this statement that gardening is “a good way to find beauty in chaos. Gardens are real. They are not a version of themselves served up via a corporate process.”

Therapeutic Landscape Network reminds us that Nature, in corporate hospitals and elsewhere, plays a salutogenic role in both disease prevention and health promotion. They explain how the theory of biophilia helps us understand why nature is healing and how helpful “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings (is) to other living organisms”

Have you ever had the chance to stare in awe at the beauty of a growing cannabis plant, or laugh at someone who can’t take their eyes off one? If so, you know exactly what I’m talking about and why I’m encouraging you to start growing – whether it’s an entire healing garden with a few cannabis plants, or just some cannabis plants alone.

The Attention Restoration Theory says that “positive distraction” and “soft fascination” with plants through nature engagement, leads to cognitive and mental homeostasis, as opposed to the constant stress of directed attention – which is what your brain does when it’s trying to focus on a specific task.

Healing Gardens

Therapeutic Landscape Network defines a healing garden as a garden or landscape “designed for a specific population, place, and intended positive health outcome.” They’re places where physical, occupational, horticultural, and other therapies can take place. Their designs are informed and directed by scientific research, and the majority of healing gardens can be found in healthcare facilities, where they’re used by patients or residents, visitors, and staff.

Beyond cultivated gardens, access to nature in general promotes health by reducing stress, depression, myopia, pain, fatigue, aggression, impulsivity, and symptoms of (ADHD). It also improves immune function, bone strength, wound healing, cognition, concentration, emotional resilience, empathy, vitality, relaxation, mood, and satisfaction.

“The benefits of gardening really are prodigious,” says Adam Griffin, a senior occupational therapist for child and adolescent mental health. “Not only can the exertions involved in digging, weeding, planting and pruning help your physical health, but they can also have a very positive impact on your mental health.”

The National points out multiple other benefits as well:

Responsibility And Control

A simple activity such as being able to monitor the amount of water given to a potted plant or bed of flowers leads to a greater sense of control – an important psychological counter for those who are often overwhelmed by their ­feelings.

Connecting With Life

Connection with growing plants, animals, and insects results in improved moods and concentration, and helps people to focus on their skills, rather than their deficits. “Gardening shows us that we are but a small part of nature, and getting over such feelings of insularity and self-­absorption is an automatic antidepressant,” says Malati Jagasia, a child psychologist based in Mumbai.

Increases Positive Hormones

Green space exposure causes a dip in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol – which controls the immune system, memory, and moods – and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, dissolving tension, anger, and confusion.

As Sigmund Freud pointed out, “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions or conflicts.”


Part of gardening involves intensely demanding activities such as weeding and chopping,  allowing people to release and vent their anger or frustration in a controlled ­environment.

Sense Of Reward

As plants blossom and grow, they also help build a sense of confidence in their gardeners. Anne Love, author of ­Gardening in Oman and the UAE, says: “When you invest time and effort into growing plants, you feel a sense of ownership and pride, and this helps you feel you belong.”

Physically Beneficial

Gardening is a great way of exercising, burning calories, and using your non-dominant hand. Getting out in the sun increases systemic Vitamin D and, and exposure to allergen-fighting bacteria helps build your immune system.

Plants Are Non-Judgmental

Plants allow us to escape from our inner minds as well as other people’s opinions and biases. Our relationship with plants – much like our relationship with pets – lives on a safer and simpler level.

Sense Of Community

Communal gardening allows engagement, communication, receptivity and social inclusion. According to a paper published in 2014 by the American Horticultural Therapy Association, a by-product of long-term interaction with a like-minded group is linked to reduced reliance on medication and self-harming ­behavior.

Cultivating Plants Cultivates Hope

Hope may be one of the greatest benefits from gardening. Daily visible changes in growing plants can be all the change some people need to see to instill hope and a perception of positive growth and transformation in themselves

So, what are a few things you can do or think about for your own personal healing garden and cannabis cultivation?

According to Roger Ulrich’s theory of Supportive Garden Design, healing gardens should provide

1) Engagement with nature, including plants, animals, water, and fresh air

2) A sense of control, privacy, and easy navigation

3) Opportunities for socializing, exercise, and movement

A garden with both sunny and shady spots makes the garden more broadly accessible. You can even create a covered seating area for more sensitive people.

Spring Chemovars

For spring cannabis cultivation and personal productivity, Leafly suggest five Canadian chemovars (noting that not all sativas are uplifting, and not all indicas are sedating):

Chocolate Fondue is a sativa-dominant combo of Exodus Cheese and Chocolope, and can increase focus and socializing.

Ultra Sour (not recommended for novice users) is high in caryophyllene, a terpene known for its anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.  

GO, by Tokyo Smoke, promises an exhilarating burst of energy and creativity. Replete with scents of pine, pepper and citrus GO can help you tackle your daily DIY tasks.

Super Silver Haze, which I’m currently cultivating, is a like woodsy and citrusy shot of caffeine, renowned as a three-time HIgh TImes cannabis cup winner

Warlock CBD is a stress-reducing, skunk-influenced, indica-dominant chemovar known for both relaxing the body and perking the mind.

Whether you choose to garden indoors or out, cultivate cannabis or hemp, I encourage you to start planting your seeds or cultivating your thoughts on creating your own healing garden, small or large, individually or communally, and start to heal yourself, your community and the earth.

Or, as Don states, “By becoming in tune with the seasons of growth and fall, preparation and harvest you make your mind and body happier and healthier. By having a direct stake and involvement with the process of plants growing, of having your hands in the soil and tending it carefully and with love, your world and everyone’s else’s world too, becomes a better place.”

Happy planting!


Jessilyn Dolan, RN, CMT, CLD, ADS is a nurse researcher and educator and founder of The Vermont Cannabis Nurses Association.

She’s a Cannabis Nurse Educator and co-owns HomeGrown Consulting for cannabis cultivation and medication consultations. Jessilyn is a proud Clean Green Certified organic H.E.M.P.  (Horticultural Excellence Medicinal Perfection) farmer.

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