TL;DR : If you’re here you probably already know a few ways in which gardening can be beneficial. Of course we’re talking about benefits for your physical health as well as for your mental well-being. Yet what you might not know (and I admit I probably do not either) are all the ways growing plants outside may be good for you and how they may help your health.
Clearly it’s no coincidence that small gardens aimed at contributing to health and healing have been popping up in many developed countries. They are helping us rediscover the benefits of gardening in workplaces, prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and even in community centers for homeless people and at-risk youth. Who wouldn’t want to take a break from everything to garden a little?
A common ground for all ages
You can get so much out of gardening but a lot depends of the conditions in which you do it. Some people prefer spending the time alone to relax their minds and body whilst other prefer community gardening. One of the biggest advantages of gardening is that it is a perfect activity to do alone or in a group. You can garden at any age. Children love gardening, the elderly love gardening, it’s one of those multi-generational activities that can get whole families together for hours of fun. Not only will it bring you great memories but if you are vegetable gardening it might also produce a bountiful harvest. And this could be the result of hours of fun!
Giving or sharing the fruits of your labor to your close friends or family is also a great way to maintain bonds. Share meals made from your garden, give bouquets of flowers picked from your garden, provide a little nature and sunshine in everyone’s life.
Having a common garden next to your workplace is also a great way to get to know your colleagues better and to reinforce team building during the lunch break for example!
Relaxation and letting go
Nature and its gifts have long been known for their relaxing qualities. We often consider our gardens or the great outdoors as a place for human beings to find tranquility, healing and as a place where people revitalize and reenergize. Gardening, the passion we share, in particular is associated with mental clarity and feelings of reward. Gardening helps let go and forget all your troubles. It helps you attain peace of mind, at least temporarily. That deep sense of well-being you get from a day of planting, weeding and pruning isn’t all in your head — though your head does, of course, benefit too!
This is especially true for those of us who lead extremely busy lives, for the perfectionists, and the over-achievers. If you feel you are in this category, you may have never considered taking up gardening. Many of us grow up in big cities and never build a close relationship with the earth as our ancestors did. Another reason some us have never imagined tending to a garden patch is because we are under the impression that we’d need to spend lots of time in the garden in order to get something concrete accomplished.
Of course this is not the case. You can feed a family with only a little space with fun techniques like vertical gardening, but you don’t even need to be thinking about feeding anyone. Starting small and setting higher goals each year (and accomplishing them) is highly rewarding. Just start with a few potted plants on your balcony or a small herbal garden for the kitchen.
Gardening is also great for people who spend most of their time multitasking (like moms). When you garden you are pushed to focus on only one thing at a time. If you wish to, you can tackle one task per day, take care of watering your plants the first day, weeding them and adding mulch the next, checking up on them on the third and then starting over. When you work on only one thing at a time, your mind is able to go deeper and concentrate. It’s not filled with clutter as it is when you multitask. Spend time outside with your hands in the dirt will actually help you focus and sharpen your concentration, all the while helping you relax.
This is why gardening is also the best time to get creative. You are in the perfect state of mind to be receptive to new ideas. Being in the garden helps access creativity. The combination of working with your hands and being one with nature makes it easier to enter into this mindstate. You’ll probably get great ideas from time spent gardening.
Enjoying the fruit of your labor (literally)
Whether you originally started garden to reduce your stress, just for fun, as a hobby or with the idea of being self-sufficient in the near future in mind, you will probably end up eating or using a part of your harvest. After all what is gardening if you don’t at least have a part of food gardening or herbal gardening?
Food gardening can particularly be gratifying and an excellent source of fresh produce. From soil preparation to the joy of harvesting, there is always a task during the growing season! Preparing the soil, planting, weeding, watering, pruning, harvesting, controlling pests,… If you have ever spent a part of the summer gardening, you know that these tasks are greatly liberating and can serve as great exercise. But in the end the best part is getting to cook and eat products grown in your care. Nothing tastes better than fresh home-grown organic tomatoes.
Eating your own produce is great for you and the environment. You know the soil that your food grows in. You know no pesticides were used on the plants during their growth. More importantly you get products fresh from the plant that require no polluting transport to get to your plate.
By growing your own products you can reduce your environmental impact. Backyard gardening helps the planet in many ways. If you grow your food organically, pesticide and herbicide free, you’ll spare the earth some of the burden of unnecessary air and water pollution. Not only that but you’ll also reduce the use of fossil fuels and the resulting pollution that comes from the transport of fresh produce from all over the world (in planes and refrigerated trucks) to your supermarket. You will also get used to eating seasonal fruit and vegetable, that can be grown locally. You will definitely get a lot of pride and self-satisfaction from growing your own food (no matter the quantity).
Growing your own fruit and vegetable will also entice you to eat more of the stuff. If you have children it’s a great way to get them to eat more fruit and veggies.
Another advantage is that your food’s vitamin content will be at its highest levels as you bite into these fruit, vegetables or herbs straight from the garden.
Of course you can’t always grow everything you need (or want) but any first step is a great start.
Flowers are also great for adding a little life to your garden as well as to your household. Some fresh or dried flower bouquets will make excellent decorations in a home. Enjoy the fresh smell (instead of Febreeze) and beauty of nature within your home!
Save money on groceries
Your grocery bill will shrink as you begin to stock your pantry with fresh produce from your backyard. A packet of seeds is not a huge investment and can usually last a few years. You don’t really need 40 tomato plants to feed your family each year. A dozen seeds will easily suffice and yet there are hundreds, sometimes thousands in seed packets. Most seeds can be kept for a few years before losing their viability.
If you buy heirloom, non-hybrid species, you can even save the seeds from the best producing plants, dry them, and use them next year. We hope to soon write a post about making DIY seed envelopes to keep your seeds to further reduce the cost.
If you learn to cook, dry, can, freeze or otherwise preserve your summer or fall harvest, you’ll be able to feed yourself even when the growing season is over. Some vegetables like pumpkin are ripe at the end of the growing season and can easily be kept during the winter months. Keep coming back to Culture Acre and I’m sure we’ll get to share some of our favorite recipes and techniques with you.
Saving money and becoming more self-sufficient will cut part of the stress groceries puts on your finances. After all groceries can rapidly become a major home budget item, accounting for over a quarter of your monthly earnings.
Improving your mood
Instant mood changer
You don’t have to be gardening for this one. Just being in the garden has a genuine positive effect on your mood. You can lay down or read a book, but being active will usually help you best. Taking in the fresh air and avoiding interior pollution will usually help you fight off any headache beginning to show it’s ugly face.
Research shows that looking at plants and flowers improve our moods, concentration and productivity. They also seem to decrease stress, help us feel less anxious, more optimistic and safer. Starting your day off in the garden can be a great way to get up on the right side of the bed.
Beginning a busy day by weeding your vegetable patch will help you feel productive and give you the feeling you are getting something accomplished before you even get to work. Spending 30 minutes in the garden each day sure beats taking antidepressants or therapy and it’s way less expensive.
By ingesting or smelling specific plants
You can also grow “good mood” food. Some plants have energizing effects when eaten or used for aromatherapy. Some herbs and vegetables contain large quantities of antidepressant compounds and minerals that will help you fight-off bad moods. Some examples of these plants are vervain, swiss chard, chamomile, blue potatoes, cherry tomatoes, black-eyed peas, oregano, sunflowers, lavender, evening primrose and the one you may know best : Saint John’s wort.
Most of these are easy to grow, even if you don’t have a large garden (or a garden at all).
Improving your general mood
Gardening is one of those habits that can change your life, like getting up early! Gardening helps you develop certain feelings. It will bring you to feel more nurturing and grateful for what you have.
When you garden, you enter into a nurturing relationship with your plants. You want to take care for them as you would with a child or a pet. You watch them sprout, grow and bloom before they wither. Gardening is all about relating to and nurturing plants (and them nurturing you in some ways). You’re constantly making contact with them as soon as you are out in the garden, whether it’s to plant them, water them or prune them!
The process of gardening also enables you to experience feelings of appreciation with more ease. This is a great thing, isn’t it? Why would you be thankful for the wonderful bounty nature is giving you? Studies continue to show how the practice of gratitude is one of the key factors in determining if you experience a joyful life. Feeling thankful will impact your whole day, so eat a few blueberries from your garden to start off the day just right!
Improving your physical health
You’re not a great fan of jogging or cardio? Well that doesn’t really matter does it! There are great productive ways to stay fit and have fun all the while. Guess what, gardening is one of them. Of course watering your flowers on your balcony doesn’t replace a marathon or even the recommended dose of daily exercise.
Gardening has many beneficial effects on your body’s health. Let’s try and find out what a few of these are.
Gardening is one way you can achieve your target, or at least a part, of daily exercise (which is usually at least 30 minutes per day, which is a decent amount of time to get things done in a small to medium-sized garden). Personally I’d rather be gardening than at the gym: at least gardening provides a rewarding motivation that makes it happen, unlike a treadmill, which invites associations with hamsters in wheels. A swedish study showed that regular physical activity such as gardening reduced stroke and heart attack risk by up to 30% for those over 60.
Raised beds can help preserve the joints, extending possible gardening years for seniors or for people with knee or back problems (and simply anyone wishing to garden more comfortably). There are of course many tools and options that will make gardening a more comfortable experience but you’re here to get a little exercise, are you not?
Try for at least 30 minutes of gardening a day: if your schedule won’t let you fit in half an hour at a stretch, try a quick 15 minutes in the morning, and another 15 after work. Of course you can begin smaller and slowly increase the pace until you are doing more than 30 minutes! There will probably be days when you’ll have less to do and some when you’ll be overrun. Don’t worry, this is the same for everybody. And don’t find excuses or procrastinate, you can’t hide the evidence, too much sitting is dangerous for your health, so break it up as much as you can with little spurts of activity.
Don’t forget to take breaks. Pausing, taking deep breaths, and slowing down has an undeniable impact on your health. It slows your pulse and lowers your blood pressure, clears your mind, and awakens your senses.
Gardening is a great opportunity to get physical activity and connect with your body so don’t miss out.
Boosting your immune system
Vitamin D intake through gardening
Gardening also helps boost your immune system, how awesome is that?! Now how exactly does it do this? Well, in addition to eating all those healthy fruits and vegetables, it helps your body produce vitamin D.
The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods. Vitamin D is essential for bone health. Recent research suggests it may have other benefits, too, such as protecting against colds, fighting depression and better sleep.
Small amounts of vitamin D can be found in some types of foods but usually they aren’t enough to reach an adequate intake and you probably won’t eat the same thing everyday (or it might make it impossible to get other vitamins). This makes it nearly impossible to get what you need from food. However, if you are interested in adding a little extra vitamin D to your diet, these foods include:
- Fatty fish
- Beef liver
- Egg yolk
- Fortified milk and orange juice
- Fortified cereal
So the best way to get vitamin D is definitely through sunlight. And gardening is a great way to get exposed to sunlight isn’t it? I mean who gardens inside, in the dark … unless you’re only growing illegal stuff?!
Making sure you expose your limbs (without sunscreen) for just 10 minutes during midday (you don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D) gardening, will give you enough vitamin D to reduce risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers. In fact, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink. If you are rather tanned it might take you a little while longer than 10 minutes though. Well anyways, one can never get too much sunlight… or can they? Well maybe Max can, but he’s a redhead and can get sunburned in 10 minutes in February (true story!).
So vitamin D is a great thing you’ll be getting out of gardening, and who knows, it might save your life somewhere down the line. Those with the lowest vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease (and a few other causes), and in most cases spending too much time indoors is to blame. This is a growing trend of course. Think about how much time you or your parents spent outside as children as opposed to the time you or your children are spending outdoors nowadays. I get it, TV and video games are great, yeah, but not necessarily for your health : we’re spending much more time at our desks and on our couches than outside aren’t we?.
Of course vitamin D is not the only thing helping boost your immune system. Not only does the vitamin D you’re soaking in from the spring, summer and autumn sun help you fight off colds and flus, but it turns out even the dirt under your fingernails may be working to help your immune system (well we all knew all those years of stressfully gnawing on your fingernails would pay off one day)!
We all know that being exposed to bacteria (in reasonable amounts of course, don’t go around eating dirt like toddlers, might not taste great) helps us keep our immune system working just right. And guess what? Your garden is full of bacteria. Oh wait, you probably already knew that. The “friendly” soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, which is common in garden dirt and absorbed by inhalation or ingestion of vegetables or fruits, has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies and asthma: all of which may stem from an out-of-whack immune system. Haven’t you read all those studies on allergies soaring in the past century? This particular organism has also been shown to reduce depression, so go ahead and get your hands dirty.
Phew! Well there you go, being outside and gardening in particular is really healthy. Of course there are many more benefits to gardening that I haven’t even thought of and that may derive from you, your environment or even the way you garden – maybe you can think of some? Just remember to think of these before you get started and you’ll be sure to find to motivation to spend some time outside in your beautiful garden.
Yep, that’s definitely something you’ll get from a beautiful garden.
And remember, gardening is for everyone !
Gardening is great because it’s one of those activities you won’t have trouble fitting into a busy schedule (unless you can only garden at night). You can start small and take on small projects like growing a few tomato plants or some flowers you really like, and some plants like radishes may even give you vegetables in as little as 3 weeks. It doesn’t really matter if you spend 30 minutes or 5 hours in the garden as long as you don’t tackle more than you are ready for. Even if you only garden in 30 minute chunks everyday (or a few times per week), you can still get a lot done and receive some unexpected benefits. If you only want to grow a few plants in containers that’s no problem, you’ll see soon that you are ready to take on more.
Even if you don’t have big backyard—or any yard for that matter—you can still grow food. Consider container gardening if you have a sunny balcony or patio or an indoor herb garden on a windowsill. You can even probably fit one on your desk at work. It’ll definitely surprise your colleagues and will be a conversation starter. You’ll be amazed at how many aromatic herbs or peppers can grow out of one single pot.
Drawbacks of gardening ?!
Well, there are possibly spiders and there definitely may be dirty dirty mud sometimes when it rains. Ewwwwwwwwwwww, not earwiiiiigs.
Basically apart from adding in some extra laundry sometimes there are BASICALLY NO DRAWBACKS TO GARDENING. Well except if you are allergic to pollen, fruits and the color green in general.
Oh, and once I was bending over in a blackcurrant bush an ant got into my ear. It itched like hell until it got back out again (so for about 2 minutes). Horrible. Definitely my worst experience gardening.
If you enjoyed this post and you are interested in reading more like it and getting updates every week, we urge you to subscribe to our newsletter.
If there are any questions you would like to ask us, just do it below!
Thank you for reading!