Vegetable gardens provide food, allow people to spend time outdoors, and for some, provide sanctum from the harsh world. This Garden Day, which is celebrated annually on 20 October, three schools in the Deep South are teaming up with Neighbourhood Farms to show how gardens improve their lives.Marine Primary School in Ocean View, and Laerskool Paul Greyling and Bay Primary School in Fish Hoek, form part of the Neighbourhood Farm programme aimed at embracing urban farming in schools, creating employment for locals and growing sustainable food supplies. Learners from each school maintain their gardens. On Friday 18 October, a class from each school will hold a Garden Day celebration during which they will make flower crowns and enjoy a snack together.Abdul-Aleem Sparks, a teacher at Marine Primary School, says a garden is a place where many find peace in a community that suffers many social-ills. “It has transformed the school. Before we had the garden, the school grounds were very stark. “It beautifies the school, it beautifies the area and it has a calming effect on the school and Ocean View. It’s our Garden of Eden,” he says. Learners at the school were tasked to write about the garden and how it makes them feel. The class with the most entries will celebrate Garden Day on Friday. Spending regular time in the garden has health advantages and there is an abundance of scientific evidence to back up such claims. “Next time you’re feeling under the weather, down in the dumps or stressed out, don’t reach for a packet of pills – grab your garden fork instead,” says Professor Nox Makunga, a plant scientist at the department of botany and zoology at Stellenbosch University. “There are dozens of studies globally that have looked into how gardening affects your health and there’s only one conclusion: gardening is incredibly good for you.”Gardening time can be beneficial in several ways:. School gardening clubs teach children fine motor skills through tasks such as transplanting seedlings and tying in tomatoes.. Gardening increases physical health by an average of 33%, also contributing to a decreased rate of heart disease and diabetes. Half an hour pushing a lawnmower burns 150 calories, equivalent to a moderate session in the gym.. The secret of gardeners’ happiness could well lie in the soil. Mice show increased levels of serotonin – the “happiness hormone” – when exposed to soil bacteria.. Office workers who have house-plants on their desks are 15% more productive than those who don’t. V For more information, visit www.gardenday.co.za and follow @GardenDaySA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.