I don’t know about your part of the world, but here in Colorado, the weather was downright balmy last week. And on Friday spring was sprung! These facts turned my and Barb’s minds toward preparing for this year’s gardening. So, I wanted to remind myself, and you, of why gardening can be highly healthy to you and those you love.
Here’s a column from Health.com that mentions some of the emotional and physical health benefits of gardening:
Force your soul to bloom: See some flowers
I visited the Philadelphia Flower Show last week to spring-ify my mood. The crowds were daunting, but the Italian-inspired gardens were treats for my winter-weary soul—even if the stunning displays with their color riots of flowering plants (Someone please tell me how you get roses, daffodils, irises, and azaleas to bloom at precisely the same moment!), immaculately-trimmed hedges, sculptures, ponds, fountains, and even a wildly painted 40-foot birch tree, would be impossible for any mere mortal to achieve. Still, it was a sweet hint of what spring will soon bring.
I’m still aglow remembering how lovely it was to see all that botanical beauty. If there’s a flower show or botanical garden in your neck of the woods, do yourself a favor and visit; your soul will thank you. Visit the Garden Clubs of America website to find out what’s blooming near you.
Plant a pot garden
No, not that kind of pot. I mean, of course, the pots you fill with dirt and seeds, and plop down on whatever patch of outdoor space or windowsill you can call your own. I just succumbed to the lure of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog and ordered $50 worth of exotic red lettuces, sweet peas, Italian and Thai basil, cilantro, chives, purple tomatillos, multi-colored hot and sweet peppers, “black” cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, white Japanese eggplant, yellow Indian cucumbers, golden beets, and I think some purple string beans.
Just planning the planting—not to mention the harvest—instantly lifted my mood, and with any luck, my $50 investment should return me all the salads, salsas, ratatouilles, and stir-fries my family and I can eat. I’m not enough of a math whiz to tally up what this will save me on my veggie purchases over the coming months, but I can tell you that growing my own means that all of us around here will be getting a lot closer to eating our ideal nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Gardening can heal a broken heart
You get more than just the joy of seeing pretty flowers or eating garden-fresh veggies when you plant, according to a 2005 study from the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine. Researchers there discovered that after touring a greenhouse and repotting a plant, people recovering from heart attacks and cardiac surgery were 53% less tense, 46% less angry, and 63% less tired than people in a control group who skipped the garden tour. Can re-potting a plant save your life? Well, just maybe: It’s a well-known fact that depression and hostility can contribute to having a second, fatal heart attack.
Do the garden workout
Meanwhile, at Kansas State University, horticulture professor Candice Shoemaker, PhD, studies gardening’s health benefits on seniors, adults, and children. She and her colleagues have discovered that gardening helps keeps people nimble and strong in several key ways: It builds hand strength, fulfills our daily ration for moderate activity, and improves self esteem. If you vigorously rake, hoe, and weed for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, you can expect the same health benefits that other forms of physical activity offer, she says.
“If you think of gardening as exercise, many of us who feel like we’ll never meet the physical activity guidelines for health will now have hope,” Shoemaker tells me. “Staying motivated to keep active is always a challenge, which gardening fulfills because the garden is continually changing, requires regular care, and provides tangible rewards—fresh produce, beautiful flowers, and a pleasant landscape to enjoy,” she adds.
What’s more, when you garden, your brain benefits too. Because it’s a source of quiet and tranquility, gardening induces peaceful feelings, Shoemaker says. “Research shows that gardening, or being around plants, can reduce stress,” she says. “Studies with people experiencing different kinds of stress (prisoners; college students studying for an exam; patients in pain, oncology wards, or surgery recovery; or those in negative work environments) show that plants can either lower the amount of stress people experience, or can help them recover from stress more quickly.”
Right after I send in this blog, I’m going outside to plot out where all my veggie pots are going to go. Who knows, maybe by July I’ll be able to open my own sidewalk farm stand—and be fit enough to feel good in my bathing suit.
Besides the emotional and physical benefits, there are other health benefits of gardening.
First of all, if you garden with someone, you have a relaxed time for visiting, sharing, and conversation. Gardening can help relational health.
And last but not least, gardening gets us out into nature, and the Bible tells us in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”
Another version says it this way: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.”
In other words, when we’re out in nature (whether it be gardening, hiking, or camping), we can not only see the beauty of creation, but the beauty of the Creator.
So, gardening has physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual benefits. It’s hard to be more highly healthy than that!