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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Yielding More Than Crops

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Yielding More Than Crops

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.

Benefits of gardening with your kids

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.

teach your kids how to garden with the Super CrewImprove 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.

Check out our Super Crew Activities

Get your kids interested in gardening by teaching them where food comes from and introducing them to more foods they may want to grow! See our seasonal and earth-friendly Super Crew kids nutrition activities.

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 best for decreasing stress?

A. Walking

B. Exercising indoors

C. Community gardening

3. Gardening:

A. Increases the cost of produce

B. Keeps the cost of produce the same

C. Decreases the cost of produce


  1. True
  2. C
  3. C


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About the Author

Picture of Sarah Rasnick

Sarah Rasnick

Sarah Rasnick is a senior dietetics student at the University of Cincinnati with a double major in horticulture. She plans to become a registered dietitian and attend graduate school in sustainable food systems.

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