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Make the most of the growing season

| Wellness | Mental Health | Healthy You

Woman and child work together in a garden planting lettuce

Gardening is good for your health. But many benefits have nothing to do with what you harvest.

Whether your garden is big or small, you can reap many health benefits by gardening.  Scientists have proven this in study after study.

In fact, what you get out of the act of gardening can be far more than the fruits and veggies you harvest. With any luck, you can enjoy both the process and the produce.

Here’s how gardening can help your health:

Physically, it can improve your

  • Mobility – Tending a garden can keep you moving, bending, kneeling and more.
  • Stamina – Gardening isn’t done in just one day or one sitting. It takes weekly or even daily attention.
  • Strength – Lifting bags of compost or digging in the soil builds muscle.
  • Balance – Walking on uneven ground or stepping over rows of plants can help your sense of balance.
  • Hand strength – Weeding or using a trowel or garden fork can work your hands in new ways.
  • Motor coordination – Watering, weeding, digging, harvesting are all actions that need some coordination.
  • Diet – If you grow fruits or veggies, you’re more likely to enjoy them in healthful meals.
  • Microbiome – Digging in the dirt or enjoying outdoor smells can add a variety of microbes to your system.

Mentally, it helps your

  • Memory – You’ll want to remember to regularly water or do other things to care for your plants. If you’re a veteran gardener, you might also remember from season to season what kind of plants did well.
  • Attention – You can look for changes in your garden and take note of when things are about to bloom or when start pruning.
  • Concentration – You can focus on any task in the garden, from planting or weeding to tying up vines.
  • Problem solving – From pest control to drooping plants, you might have to get creative.

Socially and emotionally, it can

  • Lessen stress – Studies show that stress hormones go down when you spend time in the garden. That’s because it causes you to slow down and fosters creativity.
  • Build connection with others – Gardening can be done as a family or with a community. Young kids and older adults can help each other. You might also swap or share garden bounty with fellow gardeners.
  • Increase self-confidence – You can feel good about your efforts.
  • Ease symptoms of depression – Being outdoors can enhance your feeling of well-being.
  • Inspire continued learning – Even gardening veterans know there’s always something to learn.

Tips for starting a garden

If the above health benefits convinced you that gardening will be worth your while, here are a few pointers for getting started:

1. Think about your space and sun exposure. If you’ve got a big yard, you have a lot of choices about what and how much you can plant. If you only have a small space, say a kitchen windowsill, here are a few plants you might try:

  • Basil or other herbs – You can cut and use the leaves in your cooking. Plants will grow new ones. Trim what you need and let the plant keep growing.
  • Sprouts and microgreens – You can start and use these baby plants in salads. Just start a fresh batch every few weeks.
  • Leaf lettuce – You can cut leaves for salad and it will keep growing new ones.

2. Review your budget. You’ll need a few supplies such as soil amendments, seeds, plants, fertilizer, etc. You might also need some tools. But gardening doesn’t have to cost a lot. See if neighbors and friends have pots, plant starts or other items to pass along. You might also find good deals at garage sales or thrift stores.

3. Plan your time. On average, Americans with a garden spend about 5 hours a week. Your schedule may have more or less room, though. Plan your garden size to matches the time you expect to have available.

4. Enjoy the process. Lots of things can affect a garden -- soil, seed, sun, water, pests, etc. Don’t be disappointed if your garden doesn’t produce as much as you want. Keep in mind the many other benefits you’re getting from the garden.

If you want help taking your skills to the next level, click below to find a master gardener resource in your area: