I often start my gardening talks by asking the audience, “Why do we still garden?” For example, why would anyone take the time and energy to plant, grow, harvest, and preserve peas when you can easily stop at the local grocery store and buy a bag of them for less than a dollar? The answer is growing your own peas is healthy for you in many ways!
First, gardening provides physical exercise. To prepare the garden for planting can work up a good sweat. Spending a few minutes every day weeding, watering and tending your crop is a great way to help meet your goal of 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of exercise. And then all that clean up after the garden has finished is a great fall workout. Gardening is hard work, and that hard work leads to burning calories.
Second, the produce you grow is much healthier for you. Many studies have shown that organic produce isn’t any more nutritious for you than nonorganic. However, you can control what goes into your produce by avoiding pesticides and herbicides. You get to choose your fertilizer and avoid spraying all those chemicals on your garden. Those chemicals kill insects and weeds, so no matter what you are told; chemicals can’t be healthy for you to ingest.
Third, produce out of your garden tastes incredibly better than what you can buy in a grocery store. Grocery stores sell you produce that looks good, but that doesn’t equate to good taste. Think about how far produce is shipped to get to the store; hundreds and even sometimes thousands of miles. In order to get it to you chemicals are used to stop the ripening process. Dyes are often used to enhance color. I challenge anyone to pick a fresh tomato, ear of corn, watermelon, strawberry or any other type of produce and compare its flavor to that of store-bought produce.
Fourth, gardening also improves your mental health. Studies have shown that gardening increases individual life satisfaction, psychological well-being, sense of community, and cognitive function. Gardening has also shown to decrease anger, fatigue, depression, and anxiety symptoms. Watching your garden grow builds self-esteem while taking your mind off of negative things like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gardening improves physical, psychological, and social health that can alleviate and prevent many health issues. With so many positive effects of gardening on health, I may be biased but I feel we all should garden. It’s something the whole family can participate in. If you don’t already have a garden space or feel you lack the knowledge to garden, we have a very strong Master Gardeners program in the area that may be able to help you. There are also community gardens popping up that you can join if you lack the space to grow a garden. If you truly can’t garden I recommend supporting your local gardeners and shop at the farmers’ markets.
Remember… dirt on your hands from your garden shows you are getting healthier and a green thumb is nothing you need to visit your doctor about!