The Benefits of Gardening
It can be hard to maintain a healthy diet, especially with the abundance of convenience foods that are easy to eat, yet high in fat, sugar, and salt. What if there was a way to have increased access to fresh, nutritious produce for less money? Gardening can provide your family with better nutrition for less cost and also has many other health benefits. Read on to learn about the benefits of home gardening and helpful tips for getting started.
Save money. Gardening reduces the cost of produce. The price to begin gardening is mainly in the seeds and supplies. Once the garden is established, you can have fresh organic produce at your fingertips for much less than produce in the store. Since it is your garden, whatever you plant is yours, and you can sell anything extra from what you harvest. Another great way to save money is by preserving your produce through freezing, canning or even drying.
Be more active. Planting your own crops can also be a great way to get exercise and encourage your family to be more active. Gardening takes a lot of work, from tilling the soil and planting the crops, to watering and weeding the garden. A lot of exercise goes into caring for plants, and active gardening is associated with a healthier body weight.
Increase family health. Gardening can increase your whole family’s health. When one family member gardens, there is an increase in the fruit and vegetable consumption of the whole family. An increased fruit and vegetable intake is associated with decreased risk for the top three causes of death in the United States: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and ischemic stroke. If the whole family gets involved in gardening, they may be more likely to try the fruits of their labor. It allows the whole family to interact and grow closer to each other as well. Also, studies have shown that children become more interested in science, plant growth, and life cycles while working in the garden, so it is a great way to boost their academic interests. Check out our interview with gardening guru, Joe Lamp’l on how to get a garden started.
Improve Mental Health. Growing produce also can help your mental health. Exercise and connecting with nature have been shown to reduce stress levels. Try volunteering with others at a community or school garden. Research suggests that stress levels decrease more from gardening in a community than from exercising indoors, walking, or home gardening on your own. Learn the benefits of started a garden and home or school.
No land to garden? No problem! There are many community gardens around the nation that are designed to allow people to socialize and have access to fresh produce. To find a community garden near you and what their procedures are, see the American Community Gardening Association. Also consider planting in pots on your balcony, patio, or even your windowsill. Some fresh herbs and baby greens do not require much sun to grow.
How do I start? There are some types of crops that are easier to grow than others. You may want to try starting with tomatoes (cherry or regular), squash (summer or winter), peppers, peas, lettuce, cucumbers, and beans, since they tend to be more forgiving. Swiss chard is also easy to grow and very tasty. Begin with a small amount of vegetables, and as you advance, add more crops and experiment with different types. Make sure to check the back of the seed packet to make sure your crops are suitable for the area where you live and for information on how to care for the plant. For more information on gardening basics, food preservation, and other valuable information about how to grow crops see the University of Maryland home and garden extension.
Test Your Knowledge:
1. True or False: Gardening can increase your family’s consumption of fruits and vegetables?
2. Which of the following activities would be the best for decreasing stress?