IF GARDENING is the new Prozac, there’s no hope for me.

Scientists have discovered that Mycobacterium vaccae - a type of bacteria commonly found in soil - acts like Prozac, stimulating serotonin in the brain, helping to make people feel happier and more relaxed.

Spending an afternoon with spade or hoe in hand, should leave us feeling chilled and carefree.

So why doesn’t it? I’ve spent the past two weekends gardening and I’m about as chilled as a hostage being held at gunpoint by Somali pirates.

I spent yesterday up to my elbows in vegetation, my hands embedded in clods of soil, and my body as one with the undergrowth, yet I came away exhausted and stressed up to the eyeballs.

You would think that tidying up a small border would be a doddle, but pulling out overgrown plants was backbreaking, not to mention dangerous, with a hidden gooseberry bush lacerating my fingers.

Digging out a corner of our vegetable patch was horse’s work. Never mind tennis elbow, you do far more damage wielding a spade.

Tackling rampant ivy that had started to consume our shed left my arms covered in small, red lumps.

“What happened to you?” the man in the paper shop asked, backing away as though I was highly contagious. That was three hours after the pruning, when it still looked livid.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy gardening, but unless you’re living like a Jane Austen character, drifting around snipping a few roses, I wouldn’t call it relaxing. At this time of year it’s also hugely time consuming.

Garden tasks have an urgency that housework does not. If you leave your home undusted, unvacuumed and unpolished for a couple of months, no-one will notice. But if you neglect your garden you can run into all sorts of problems. Hedges can suddenly shoot up and out at all angles. What was a neat strip of hawthorn one week can soon resemble the hedge from Sleeping Beauty.

Grass grows like billy-o. In periods of hot, wet weather, it seems to sprout an inch every couple of hours. If you go away for a few days you come back to a jungle.

Before we moved into this house - the first one with a garden bigger than a postage stamp- my husband and I imagined how we would use it. We would sit on an evening, sipping cool glasses of wine while listening to birdsong.

We’ve got the birdsong, but not the rest. It is a full-time job keeping on top of everything. It took two weekends for my husband to cut the hedges, with me raking all the cuttings in his wake and attempting to cram it all into wheelie bins. Despite wearing protective gloves, I got a rash then as well, from a reaction to something in the hedgerow.

Mowing the lawn takes hours and it’s a race against time to pick any fruit and veg we grow, before wasps, slugs and other predators discover it.

From this, you might imagine I’m living in a stately home, not a modest semi. Our garden isn’t vast, but it takes effort to maintain.

Countless studies have shown that gardening is good for our health, and it is. It offers fresh air and exercise, and as far as stress relief goes, you definitely put your worries on the back-burner. But unless you’re retired and have all the time in the world to devote to it, it’s a pressing worry in itself.

If gardening was the Prozac-like pastime it’s claimed to be, my husband and I would be floating among the begonias on cloud nine, not wound up like coiled springs.