Have you been dying to start a garden? Or maybe you’ve been gardening for years? Either way, do you know the actual benefits of gardening? Gardening is good for your whole self—body, mind, soul—and good for your budget, family, and the environment to boot. Here are six benefits of gardening (I am sure there are more) that you may not be aware of.
#1. Gardening is Good for Your Body
Who needs exercise? Everyone, that’s who! Gardening is just one more way you can squeeze a little extra calorie burning into your day. According to WebMD, gardening can burn anywhere between 200 and 400 calories an hour. Obviously, this will vary depending on the particular gardening task. However, I can attest that weeding provides a great opportunity for exertion.
In addition to the calorie-burning benefits of gardening, being out in the sunshine and fresh air is good for your physical health as well. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient our body produces when our skin is exposed to direct sunlight. According to the National Institutes of Health, Vitamin D deficiency can cause problems in bones and may even be linked to diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Getting out in the sunshine (make sure to wear sunscreen and protective clothing) can help to make sure you are getting plenty of this vital nutrient.
Getting Your Fruits and Veggies
Besides the physical act of gardening, the vegetables and fruits you grow are important for your health. When you grow your own, you have control over whether or not to use pesticides or fertilizers. What’s more, nothing tastes better than fresh, home-grown produce. Don’t believe me? Try it and see. Grow a tomato (or buy one at a farmer’s market) and compare it to a tomato from your local grocery store. The difference is amazing.
Naturally, it follows that the better our veggies taste the more we will actually eat. Plus, having so much fresh produce right on hand forces you to be more creative with your cooking in order to eat it all—hello fried squash blossoms, chive blossom cream cheese, and zucchini everything! An article in Medical News Today claimed that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can aid in weight loss, improve mood and memory, reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, and even help you sleep better.
#2. Gardening is Good for Your Mind
Planning a successful flower or vegetable garden takes a great deal of knowledge, planning, and creativity. This planning process is a great way to sharpen your mind. I have read hours worth of articles, blogs, and books on gardening. To compare prices and customer reviews, I have poured over seed catalogs and websites. I have even made spreadsheets—yes, spreadsheets—to track my spending, planting times, care schedules, etc.
All of the planning and decision-making has challenged my creativity and improved my critical thinking. Gardening is an exercise in trial and error and the learning curve is steep. There is always something new to be learned and new challenges to undertake. Read my post Four Simple Tips for Starting Your First Garden to learn more about how to plan your first garden.
#3. Gardening is Good for Your Budget
Reduce Your Spending on Fruits and Veggies
I must qualify this point slightly, vegetable gardening can be good for your budget. If you spend lots of money on your supplies, by seedlings from nurseries, and spare no expense, well, then no, you won’t save any money. However, gardening can be done to fit any budget. And vegetable gardening can certainly save you money on groceries.
The trick is to figure out what you spend on produce at the grocery store in a year and then make sure that your total garden budget is less. There are a lot of ways to save money on gardening too. Investing in non-consumable supplies like raised beds, tools, and a watering system are worth spending a little more on to get started. Although, you would be surprised what you can find at the dollar store, facebook buy and sell groups, and on sale.
Save Money on Consumables
What you really need to focus on to save money are consumable things like plants, seeds, fertilizer, compost, and water. The biggest money saver is to start your plants from seeds. This is considerably more difficult than just buying them as seedlings from a nursery. However, it can be done (see my post Seed Starting 101 (A Step by Step Guide for Beginners)) and it is a fraction of the cost.
Things like fertilizer and compost can also get expensive, but you can save money by making your own compost or buying compost from cheaper sources. Some landfills offer much cheaper compost in large amounts—just make sure it has been tested and properly certified for garden use.
Watering can also cost a pretty penny, but you can reduce costs by using a watering system, like a drip line, to water your plants more efficiently. You can also save water by mulching around your plants. To learn more about water-wise gardening and landscaping, check out this post about The Seven Features of a Water-Wise Garden.
#4. Gardening is Good for Your Family and Friends
Kids in the Garden
If you have young people in your life, whether nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or your own children, they can also reap the benefits of gardening. Invite the kids to help you in the gardening process, they will learn so much. And, if the gardening bug bites them too, they will have a constructive hobby that they can pursue for a lifetime.
The benefits of gardening apply to kids just as much as they do to adults, and you might be surprised at how much they will enjoy it. My girls (3 and 5) enjoyed helping me pick flower seeds, plant, and harvest. The more fun parts of gardening will engage them and excite them, and the less-fun parts (like weeding) will teach them about hard work and diligence. Need ideas about how to get kids involved? Check out these great activities from KidsGardening.org.
Gifts from the Garden
In addition to children, gardening will benefit other family members and friends. I love to use my fresh produce as gifts. Zucchini and baked goods involving zucchini make great gifts for neighbors and co-workers. I have made herbed cream cheese and butter that make for great gifts as well. Everyone loves fresh produce and tasty homemade goods, they appreciate the extra effort that goes into it.
#5. Gardening is Good for the Environment
Control the Chemicals
What is greener than home-grown produce? Nothing. As stated earlier, when you grow your own fruits and vegetables, you decide what chemicals are used in their production. Making your own organic compost to enrich your soil not only ensures that you will use fewer synthetic fertilizers, but it is also a great way to recycle your table scraps. Read step-by-step instructions on composting in Better Homes and Gardens: How to Compost.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
What’s more, one of the biggest culprits when it comes to increasing our carbon footprints is shipping. When your produce is shipped from far away, the packaging used to protect it and the fuel used for transportation not only increase the cost but also the environmental impact. You can easily reduce the plastics and carbon emissions put into the environment (albeit in a small way) by growing your own at home.
Help Preserve Pollinators
As any gardener can tell you, bees are an essential part of the growing process. Bees and other pollinators ensure that our plants are able to produce and reproduce. Unfortunately, bee populations have been declining at alarming rates in recent years. While there is much disagreement over the exact causes of this decline and on-going debate about many of the potential solutions, one thing everyone can agree on is that bees benefit from increased habitat. This is where gardeners come in! You can plant your very own pollinator garden and benefit from a symbiotic relationship with bees and other pollinating insects. There are many lovely plants that will attract bees, but for specific instructions check out the Honey Bee Conservancy’s article on How to Plant a Bee Garden.
#6. Gardening is Good for your Soul
I saved my favorite benefit of gardening for last. Gardening is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. I have often struggled with crippling fear and anxiety. For me, one of the most important benefits of gardening is managing my anxiety (read more about Coping Strategies for Anxiety). Being outside in nature has been shown to boost your mood, reduce stress, calm anxiety, improve mindfulness, and promote gratitude according to Resources to Recover. Exercise (like pulling weeds, digging, hoeing) and exposure to sunlight are also thought to increase serotonin levels (6 Ways to Boost Serotonin Without Medication).
Of course, anyone who gardens will tell you that, beyond all the science, there is an almost spiritual connection to having your hands in the dirt, working the soil. I can’t adequately describe the profound satisfaction that comes from watching the progress of plants from tiny seeds to little seedling to beautiful flower or tasty veggie. It is clearly the wonder of God’s creation and the beauty of life unfolding before your eyes.
Get Going and Reap the Benefits of Gardening!
As you can see, gardening is a truly healthful and relaxing hobby that anyone can do. Whether your garden is as large as half your yard or as small as a single container, there are benefits to be reaped. If you don’t already have a garden, start something today!
Tell me what you think. What are your reasons for gardening? What are the benefits you have experienced? Please comment below, I would love to hear from you!