Gardening has become increasingly popular. Before 2020, approximately one third of U.S. households had a garden, but thanks to more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, many Americans were stuck at home — resulting in more than 20 million new gardeners. Sixty-five percent of new gardeners stated COVID as the top reason they decided to start gardening, according to a Bonnie Plants national survey. It turns out that gardening is great for your health, both physical and mental.
Growing vegetables, herbs, or landscape plants at your home has many benefits. Not only do you produce some of your own food, learn a new skill, and beautify your landscape, you also improve your health in a number of ways.
- Strong Heart, Strong Muscles: Lugging bags of potting soil, wheeling around barrows full of compost, spending hours weeding, and more time watering and harvesting your crops has a positive impact on your physical health. Various types of labor intensity is great for your cardiovascular strength and muscle maintenance.
- Reduce Stress, Anxiety, & Depression: Gardening is relaxing, peaceful, and easy on the mind. The simplicity of many tasks coupled with being outdoors and the final satisfaction of a good harvest has proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
- Sense of Belonging: COVID left many individuals home alone, their only interaction with other people being through a screen. Sharing photos from their gardens, asking questions, and receiving positive feedback in social media groups helped people develop a sense of belonging during lonely times. Bonding over a shared activity can be positive for the relationships of families, friends, and even online communities.
- Soil Makes You Happy: Studies show that soil contains a bacteria that when inhaled helps increase serotonin and reduce anxiety. Serotonin is the chemical which makes your brain feel happy, so digging around in the dirt allows your brain to feel happier.
- Eating What You Grow: The joy of gardening is the bountiful harvest. Many gardeners who grow herbs and vegetables will consume more than their typical amount of these healthy food groups. Consuming more vegetables and fruits is great for your physical health.
- Gardening Can be Great for Self-Esteem: Wondering if you have a green thumb? What if you were to read books and learn this new skill, only to realize you can do it? The sense of accomplishment acquired from gardening can certainly help you feel good about yourself. Nurture the plant, watch it grow, care for it … the outcome of overcoming challenges and tending your plants is top notch.
If you started gardening recently, or are looking to start, there are many resources available to you. Check out your local extension service, which has free or low-cost classes, workshops, and information available to you (experts there are Master Gardeners).
Oftentimes the staff at greenhouses and gardening stores are more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and seed packets also have information listed on the back. Wonder what to plant and where, when and what depth? So much information can be found right there on the seed packets.
Gardening practices are very specific to your location and the information you utilize should be specific to your state or region. This link can offer information that is more specific to your area.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.