For Calgary entrepreneur Ruby Martin, gardening is more than just a hobby. Martin – founder of Ruby’s Healing Garden, a company that handcrafts local ecofriendly skin care products – gardening is all about beauty, well-being, regeneration, and healing. 

“Gardening is the change I wish to see in the world,” Martin says. “It’s really amazing. Even going out to a park and being around trees, or any kind of nature, resets the stresses of the day. It’s a personal sanctuary.” Gardening is about connecting with traditional ways of being, and it’s also about food security. “Growing your own plants is very self-empowering.”  

Even if it’s growing a plant in a little container on your patio or deck – toss some lettuce or pea seeds, or anything else you like to eat that’s easy to grow – into good soil, give it water and sunshine, and watch the magic happen. 

“Watching something grow from a tiny seed into a plant blows my mind,” says Melanie Isles, a Calgary-based community herbalist and master gardener teach herbal medicine. “A sunflower seed is as big as your pinky finger nail, and in the space of 90 days, it can grow to be eight feet tall.”  

According to Isles, who teaches herbal medicine, growing a garden, no matter how simple or small, empowers people to take better care of their health. Even growing a bit of mint for peppermint tea – or a cocktail garnish – is a great way to go. “Mint is super easy to grow and really helpful for all kinds of digestive issues. It’s amazing to put in a glass of cold water on a hot summer day.”  

Calendula, a self-seeding annual, is another good plant to start with, because it’s easy to grow from seed, and calenda “makes really pretty cut flowers.” In terms of practicality, “you can use calendula for all kinds of skin issues,” Isles says. You can make a tea from calendula, then cool it – cooling the tea is a very important step! – and put that cooled tea on a rash, cut or scrape – or even use it as a dandruff rinse.  

Yarrow – a native plant with creamy-white flowers and feathery leaves – is another go-to first aid plant for Isles. “Yarrow is really good for bug bites and for bleeding, and you can usually find it almost anywhere. You pick the leaves, crush them up in your hands, put them on a cut, scrape or bug bite and they’ll help disinfect it.” 

Finally, “Just start!” Isles smiles. “I’ve been gardening for 30 years, and every year is a new experiment. The only thing I’ve done more than other people, is fail. When you’re just beginning then yes, some things are going to not work, but you learn something, and then you go again the next year.”