One might assume that after growing up with a garden in my yard, I would’ve had a greater appreciation for growing fruits and vegetables. However, it was not until years after the backyard weeds took over that quarantine-inspired boredom encouraged me to try growing again. Three green peppers and two handfuls of strawberries later, I was reminded of the immense pride that stems from growing your own food.
One of the few good things to come out of quarantining at home last year was the uptick in gardening. Whether you tilled your yard or planted some flowers in plots, nurturing life during tumultuous times can provide much-needed relief and positivity. In fact, there are many benefits of gardening that go beyond simply growing one’s own food. So let’s kick off April, the month of Earth Day, by talking about gardening: the physical, the mental, and how to get started.
Get Up and Grow
Creating a garden may seem like hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Gardening is a great way to get a workout in without having to drive to the gym. Working outside in a garden, which the American Heart Association considers a moderate exercise, burns calories, increases cardiovascular activity, and, according to this article from Healthline, “uses every major muscle group in the body.” Michigan State University reported that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity to “reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.” Gardening is an easy way to get that 2.5 hours while also doing some good for the planet.
Tending to some greenery outdoors also increases your exposure to vitamin D, which many of us New Englanders lack during the brisk colder months. Vitamin D is essential to hundreds of body functions, and a healthy amount of it may help maintain healthy bones and teeth, reduce one’s risk for breast cancer, dementia and other diseases, and support brain and nervous system health. It is important to note that too much sun exposure can be damaging to the skin, so remember to wear sunblock when tending to your plants.
In addition to boosting your activity levels and vitamin intake, gardening also provides a variety of mental health benefits. According to UNC Health Talk, gardening can reduce stress, depression and anxiety, boosts self-esteem, and increases happiness. Furthermore, Healthline argues that gardening helps protect your memory as you age, provides a sense of agency and empowerment, manages “ecoanxiety,” calms the mind, and can even help recovering addicts. It’s a well-known fact that spending time in nature can reduce stress, and for those who may have a busy schedule or limited access to nature, planting a garden brings you nature that you can retreat to when feeling down.
Starting Your Own Garden
Now that I have you convinced to test out your green thumb, I will provide some helpful links with the best tips for starting your own garden. Personally, my stepmother and I bought a seed starter kit and a bunch of seeds (which are much cheaper than buying the actual plants.) We planted the seeds last Saturday, and by now my green beans, spinach and cucumber plants are over an inch tall. When the nights get a little warmer, we will transfer these plants to larger pots in my backyard. Here’s more advice from around the web:
For those in apartments or urban settings:
Consider Your Community
In one of my college courses, we have been discussing the benefits of community gardens, something that I regret to say is an entirely new concept for me. Community gardens are a not only a great vehicle for promoting healthy eating and sustainable living, but are also a way to revitalize communities, beautify public spaces and foster a spirit of collaboration and trust as these gardens bring members of a community together. For more information on local community gardens in the Merrimack Valley and how you can contribute, visit the Groundwork Lawrence website.
A Change of Scenery. A recent research study, detailed here, has found that the “more varied locations people visit, the better they feel about their emotional and psychological well-being — even if their mental health symptoms are still there.”
On the Rocks. 61-year-old Dutchman Wim Hof became a “wellness guru during the pandemic” because of his unique approach to alleviating stress: hypoxic breathing, ice baths and cold showers. Read more about him here.
But Now I See. Medical experts have given a patient born with a genetic form of blindness the ability to see, thanks to an experimental RNA therapy injection. Visit here for more on this revolutionary technology.