Written by Dwiti Kacharia
6 min read
Gardening – What Are the Benefits?
Here are 3 reasons why gardening is a health fix that everyone should adopt:
- Health benefits: growing your own food has a number of health benefits that are both easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and to sustain.
- Growing your own food helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables; it gives you healthier food options and helps you avoid junk and processed foods. It’s also easier to eat healthy fruits and salads when it’s available right in your backyard, without the hassle of having to shop or plan for fresh ingredients.
- You can choose to go organic and avoid unwanted pesticides or preservatives! Working on your own garden and planting a variety of veggies gives you a farm-to-table experience like no other. You can easily choose how you want to grow your plants– avoiding harmful pesticides and fertilizers– and hence control what goes on your plate.
- Physical benefits: The physical activity involved in digging and weeding strengthens your arm muscles and your cardiovascular system, while exposure to the sun provides a great source of vitamin D.
- Mental benefits: Gardening has been proven to make you happier and reduce stress. Inhaling M. Vacae, a healthy bacteria found in soil, increases serotonin, which helps reduce anxiety. This is one reason why the smell of wet soil after the rains helps to elevate your mood! Moreover, the various activities involved in gardening give the mind something calming to focus on, and you also reap the actual benefits of your labour. This helps in reducing depression and anxiety, while uplifting self-esteem. In addition, engaging with gardening has increasingly been recognized as not only a cost-effective health intervention but also as treatment or occupational therapy for those with psychological health issues, also known as “horticultural therapy”.
- Saves you money: healthy, hormone-free and pesticide-free organic food is expensive and difficult to sustain on a daily basis. When you grow your own organic food, you can eat healthy without the damage to your pockets.
- Better for the environment: Gardening and growing your own food has substantial environmental benefits. Have you ever stopped to consider how your food physically gets to your table? Long-distance transportation not only releases harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but also causes wastage, in the tons of food that go bad or are discarded in transit. Additionally, the carcinogenic pesticides and fertilizers used in commercial farming not only hurt your body, but also the environment. When you grow your own food, you control what to add and what to avoid. Similarly, when you learn more about gardening, you educate yourself about the environment, naturally making you a more eco-conscious being.
Gardening: Tips and Tricks
How and Where to Begin
If you are interested in gardening, it’s ideal to start by picking small and easy plants, vegetables, and herbs that you consume on a regular basis. There are many vegetables that are easy to grow and care for and take relatively little effort to maintain. Here are 10 quick tips that can help you to start gardening in your own backyard:
- Pick a spot with at least 6 hours of good daytime light and access to water.
- Use contaminant-free soil.
- Consider using a raised garden bed, which allows you to control the soil and nutrient blend.
- Talk to farmers or other backyard gardeners in your area to get a sense of what grows well in your region and when.
- Pick relatively simple and limited vegetables/herbs to grow. It is easy to get carried away and excited with the variety available, but start slow for now.
- Create a plan to accommodate for the space required for specific plants as they grow to their full length. Decide on how and where to plant them based on how much sunlight each plant may need.
- Use a notebook to write down ideas, watering requirements, and fertilizers to keep track of your plants and future plans.
- Keep a calendar for general tasks based on specific seasons and time frames (e.g. time for fertilizing at the start of spring and how often, pruning after fall or cutting back on certain plants, like roses, during the winter).
- Be consistent with your day-to-day efforts to maintain your garden. Timely watering, weeding, and pruning are some of the most important steps, and are hugely rewarding.
- Be patient—gardening is a process and impatience can be disastrous.
How to Maximize Space
Depending on where you live and the space available to you, this will largely define your gardening method. There are multiple ways to plant your garden depending on the space available, experience level, and how willing you are to get your hands dirty. Here are a few:
- Container gardening: for apartments and smaller spaces.
- Traditional in-ground gardening: for backyards and bigger spaces, but requires more work.
- Raised bed gardening: this requires outdoor space, but is relatively easy to maintain.
- Vertical gardening: for restrictive spaces, allowing you to be innovative on where and how you want to set up your garden
- Hydroponic or aquaponic gardening: more scientific and modern ways of gardening that require a proper set-up, but are pretty interesting to learn about!
- Square foot gardening: allows the growing of a variety of fruits and vegetables in a limited space
- Upside-down gardening: a style of gardening traditionally used for tomatoes, but you can grow a variety of plants in a similar manner, to optimize space use
- Hanging gardens: fascinating ways to grow your food in especially restrictive spaces. Many vegetables can be easily grown in hanging baskets, just like you would plant and hang flowers.
- Edible landscaping: replacing traditional flower beds or shrubs in your front yard or backyard with fruit and vegetable bushes
There are many other ways you can choose to grow your food. You can read more about the different kinds of gardening methods here. In addition to this, growing herbs is another option for indoor gardening as they require very little space.
How to Be Innovative
Growing your own food can also be innovative and fun. Learning some fun hacks to grow your own food in smaller spaces and indoors can lead to interesting family experiments; growing and cooking your own food not only allows for some quality family time, but also teaches basic and necessary life-skills to all involved, especially children. All in all, gardening is a project that can be an extremely fulfilling experience, as the outcome of all your hard work is not only mentally-rewarding, but also satisfying to your tummy!
With the summer here, there is no better time to take up a new hobby that combines health, fitness and family time.
Have any other gardening tips? Share them in the comments below.