It’s probably no surprise that gardening is physically good for you, but did you know it boosts all 5 elements of personal well-being? Because gardening can be done in small spaces, raised beds, pots and planters, it’s a great way to boost your well-being from spring to fall.
The Benefits of Gardening
Physical well-being: moderate physical activity, access to fresh produce
Studies have shown that those who garden actually participate in this type of physical activity for 40-50 minutes longer, on average, than those who get moderate exercise by biking or walking. Gardening can also be good for the skin, both through exposure to the outdoors and through consumption of fresh fruits and veggies. (Be sure to wear sun screen!)
For parents, the benefits of gardening are two-fold: children who are introduced to growing their own produce are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. (Studies show children are five times more likely to eat a salad if they’ve helped grow the veggies.) Also, produce that is picked from the backyard when ripe has more nutrients than store-bought produce that has been picked early.
Gardening is a great source of moderate physical activity for older or less active adults. The AARP notes that being outdoors tending plants can help older adults get adequate exposure to vitamin D and even lower risk of dementia. Some organizations are even using horticulture therapy as supplementary treatment for patients in skilled nursing facilities, cancer centers, correctional facilities and other rehabilitation programs.
Social well-being: time with friends and family, opportunity to meet other community members
School, home or community gardens can provide an opportunity for working together. Gardeners share a common goal – keep the plants healthy and happy! Teamwork, time for conversation and teachable moments can help people feel valued and connected while gardening together. Because food is a part of every culture, it can be a great topic for neighbors to discuss in the garden.
Emotional well-being: reduced stress, decreased anxiety, improved self-esteem, decreased feelings of depression, improved concentration
As a moderate form of exercise, gardening can help up our levels of serotonin and dopamine, hormones that make us feel good, and lower the level of our stress hormone cortisol.
Additionally, gardening can be a time to practice mindfulness. Given the many sensory aspects of gardening – the sounds of being outdoors, tending by hand to plants and flowers, sampling the harvest, taking in the different colors and smells – gardening is a perfect time to focus on being present.
Purpose well-being: sense of accomplishment, feeling responsible
Gardening gives us an opportunity to care for other living things and provides us with responsibilities to harvest fresh produce for ourselves, friends and family. For parents, it’s an opportunity to talk about the life cycle, explain where food comes from and connect children with nature in the comfort of their own home.
Financial well-being: fresh seasonal produce, more incentive to eat at home
Having your own produce section in or outside your house can help cut down on grocery costs. Additionally, small herb gardens don’t take up much space and can help you spice up your meals! By cooking at home, you can avoid eating out and cut down on ordering pizza. Better yet, make your own pizza by topping the dough with garden-fresh veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers and spinach. Use others, like lettuce, carrots, peas and cherry tomatoes for a side salad!
The Bigger Picture
While gardening benefits each person who does it, it also benefits the planet and our environment. Produce that is flown and/or trucked in from other regions has a large carbon footprint and can spoil in transit, contributing to food waste.
Gardens cut down on the fuel needed to transport crops from farms to stores. Garden fruits and vegetables can also be picked when they are freshest, which means they have more nutrients in them. Gardeners can use eco-friendly methods for protecting their crops, preventing the use of chemical pesticides.
Plants and gardens also sustain local pollinators. Bees and butterflies can be invited into your garden by adding native plants. Hummingbirds might also visit you, given a quiet space and the right flowers.
Connecting Schools and Gardens
School gardens can be a great way for school employees to reap the benefits of gardening without having to do everything themselves! Garden programs can allow students and staff to take turns planting, tending and harvesting fruits and vegetables as well as provide seasonal produce for both the staff room/meetings and school cafeteria.
Parents and community volunteers can assist students with activities and oversee the start of new projects. It can be an opportunity for students to care for and harvest produce during summer months, then sell it to staff and community members. Fresh produce could even be used as part of a cooking demonstration or cooking competition for staff members!
There are many good reasons to get gardening – could a school garden be part of your employee wellness program?
Additional Reading and Resources:
Cover photo of Shironeko on carrots from Daily Mail
Starting a Garden: Guides and Resources – OEA Choice Trust
Petal Power: Why is Gardening so Good for our Mental Health? – Psychology Today
What are the Physical and Mental Benefits of Gardening? – Michigan State University Extension
The Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening – Gardening Matters
Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden – OSU Extension
12 Plants to Entice Pollinators to Your Garden – OSU Extension
Native Plants Attract Butterflies – Portland Nursery
Backyard Gardening: Grow Your Own Food, Improve Your Health – Harvard Health Publishing
Sowing the Seeds of Healthy Eating – Daily Mail
Why Gardening is Good for Your Skin – Huffington Post
Horticultural Therapy – American Horticulural Therapy Association