8 Health Benefits of Gardening at Home
I grew up eating garden-fresh foods. Our summer meals on the farm varied week by week, depending on what was ripe. Some nights we’d eat entire meals of buttered sweet corn, juicy watermelon, and raw peas fresh out of the shell. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was delicious.
My mom took pride in her garden, which grew bigger every year. Green beans, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and kohlrabi were just a few of the many staples she planted. Although my sisters and I weren’t fond of the never-ending weeding, the results were always well worth the effort.
Today I continue the tradition. I’m blessed to live on an Iowa farm where long summer days produce bumper crops. Yes, we sometimes have to deal with less-than-perfect weather and pesky critters. And the weeds are still a pain. But the benefits of producing homegrown vegetables far outweigh the hard work.
Thinking about growing your own food? Read on to discover the amazing benefits of home gardening.
Physical benefits of gardening
Fresh, healthy produce
Eating more vegetables is a great way to improve the health of your body. If you grow your food, you have the choice to forgo the use of pesticides. While it may seem intimidating, eliminating chemicals is an achievable goal for your garden.
Whatever you choose, you’ll have peace of mind knowing exactly how your food was raised. You’ll know where you purchased the seeds, when they were planted, and the quality of the soil used. You can pick your vegetables when they are at their ripest and eat them the same day.
You’ll feel great knowing you’ve got a garden full of vegetables right at your fingertips all summer long. And the cost is significantly lower than store-bought produce. If you have the time, you can preserve the extra food to enjoy during the winter months. Canning and freezing are popular and easy preservation methods.
Tomatoes, cabbage, corn, beans, and peas are just some of the many foods that are simple to preserve. And remember that other veggies (potatoes, squash, onions) will keep for months in a cool dark spot.
Increased immune health
Winters in the Midwest are long and gray and cold. Even when we northerners spend time outside, we’re usually bundled up from head to toe. The sun, already buried under heavy cloud cover, doesn’t have a chance to break through our layers.
Come summer, it’s a welcome change to spend long hours outside. Working in a garden gives you a great opportunity to soak in the sun’s vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important for numerous health reasons. It promotes bone growth and calcium absorption and helps prevent osteoporosis. It supports brain health and muscle function. It reduces inflammation. It may even help prevent depression and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
While there are small amounts available in the foods we consume, our best source of vitamin D comes from the sun.
Yes, gardening is considered exercise. If you’ve ever spent hours wielding a hoe, chopping away at pesky weeds, you’ll agree. And don’t forget about planting and watering and staking and fencing. Gardening activities use muscles you’ll forget you had.
You can burn up to 300 calories an hour while enjoying time outdoors. Gardening is a great core strength builder. Your back, arms, neck, stomach, and shoulders will thank you, after the soreness goes away.
Before you start to think gardening sounds like too much work, remember that you need to exercise anyway. And this way, you end up with more to show for your efforts than just a layer of sweat.
After spending time working in your garden, you’ll probably be exhausted. If you suffer from occasional insomnia, this is great news. More than likely you will zonk out the minute your head hits the pillow. The combination of moving your muscles, fresh air, and sun is a perfect prescription for a great night of sleep.
For even better sleep, considering growing herbs that help you relax. Lavender, chamomile, passionflower, and valerian are just a few of the many options you can plant. When dried, they can be made into tinctures and teas you can use all year long.
Mental health benefits of gardening
Managing chronic stress if often an ongoing practice. Your days are spent juggling work, family, and never-ending to-do lists. You know stress isn’t good for you. Too much of it can cause serious conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
When you need a break from worry and anxiety, head for the dirt. Studies have shown gardening reduces levels of cortisol and improves blood pressure. A more relaxed mood makes it easier to have increased levels of positive feelings and reduced levels of stress.
Focusing on simple tasks like pulling weeds and picking produce gives your brain a chance to relax and recalibrate. Bonus points if you leave your phone inside. Take the opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness by noticing the small things you might otherwise overlook. Watch the bees work or pay attention to the intricate colors of the blossoms and leaves. Realize that the world is vast, and your problems are small in the grand scheme of things.
Gardening is a great way to improve your connection to nature. If you’re working alone, take advantage of the quiet time. Listen to the wind in the trees, the singing birds, and chattering squirrels. The peaceful solitude is a wonderful break from our normally busy and noisy lives.
Alternatively, spend your gardening time connecting with others. If you have young children, invite them to help. Many kids are used to buying food at the grocery store and don’t know that it’s possible to grow your own. Learning to raise a garden is a valuable life skill.
Another option is to join a community where you’ll have a chance to meet fellow gardeners. You can share tools, swap stories, and offload extra produce to your new friends. Whichever option you choose, you’ll increase your feelings of connection and promote well-being.
If you’re like many of us, you enjoy the creative process. Though you may not think of gardening as artistic, a square of dirt is a great blank canvas. Sketch out a design before you begin and choose colorful plants with a wide range of textures. Instead of grouping each type of vegetable, mix different varieties throughout the garden to create visually appealing pops of color.
As an alternative to planting straight rows, create tight patterns or quilt-like sections of blocks. Use raised beds, trellises, pavers, birdbaths, and stones to add even more eye appeal. A variety of elements make a space that is as gorgeous as it is functional.
Sometimes life is just plain tough. On those days when you don’t feel like moving from your couch, a garden provides your life with purpose. If you don’t water the plants, they won’t produce a yield. If you don’t get out your hoe, the garden will have more weeds than vegetables. And if you don’t pick the bounty, it will rot on the vine or get eaten by critters.
After all of the work you put into preparing the soil, choosing, and planting the seeds, you don’t want your efforts to be in vain. Your garden needs you. Peel yourself up, pull on your boots, and go dig in the dirt. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling better. And your entire body will thank you.
Written By: Heather Eberle