South Africa

Benefits of gardening

Growing your own food in a garden isn’t a new idea. It was a critical way for ancient people to have access to reliable, nutritious foods.

The necessity of vegetable gardens has varied through time. Gardening has gained popularity recently, even with easy and inexpensive access to food at grocery stores.

A study found interest in gardening increased during the Covid pandemic. People spent more time at home and turned to their gardens for a connection to nature, stress relief and food provisions.

For 10 years, I’ve tended large vegetable and flower gardens at my home. I find it to be challenging and gratifying to watch the gardens grow and develop.

Woman working with tools in her garden. Picture: iStock
Woman working with tools in her garden. Picture: iStock

Benefits of gardening

Increased exercise

A busy day in the garden can be a good form of exercise. While tending a garden, you perform functional movements that mimic whole-body exercise.

You perform squats and lunges while weeding. Carrying bags of compost and other supplies works large muscle groups.

Digging, raking and using a lawn mower can be physically intense. You may burn as many calories as a workout in the gym.

If you aren’t used to these types of activities, it is likely you will feel a bit sore after a busy day of gardening. Gardening also can improve your balance, strength and flexibility.

Multiracial senior women having fun gardening together. Picture: iStock
Multiracial senior women having fun gardening together. Picture: iStock

Improved diet

Growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables can have a positive impact on your diet. Gardeners are more likely to include vegetables as part of healthy, well-balanced diets.

My family eats corn, potatoes and salsa made from ingredients grown in our garden year-round.

Time in nature

Getting outdoors is good for your physical and mental health. People tend to breathe deeper when outside.

This helps to clear out the lungs, improves digestion, improves immune response and increases oxygen levels in the blood.

Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce heart rate and muscle tension. Sunlight lowers blood pressure and increases vitamin D levels.

Reduced stress levels

Nearly all forms of exercise can reduce stress, including gardening. It’s been shown to lighten mood and lower levels of stress and anxiety.

It’s very gratifying to plant, tend, harvest and share your own food. Routines provide structure to our day and are linked to improved mental health.

Gardening routines, like watering and weeding, can create a soothing rhythm to ease stress.

A garden specialist is teaching a group of students in a vegetable plot. Picture: iStock
A garden specialist is teaching a group of students in a vegetable plot. Picture: iStock

Three tips to consider when starting a garden at home

Start small

It’s easy to get excited and want a large plot with many plants. Don’t take on more than you can handle because that could cause more stress.

The larger the garden, the more work it is. It can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t have enough resources or time to care for it. You can always increase the size of your garden in the future.

Build a network

Find other people who are interested in gardening. Learn from each other’s successes and failures.

Research appropriate plants

Find plants that grow well in your climate or hardiness zone. Talk with local master gardeners to get tips on what plants thrive in your area. This improves your chances of success and lowers the stress and potential disappointment.

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