In this time of social distancing, we are all spending more time at home. This ‘extra’ time has encouraged many folks to re-evaluate the current state of their home garden. Whether you are an avid gardener that got too busy with work, or a first time gardener, we have the resources you need. This series of blogs contains resources for planning, starting and maintaining a backyard (or front yard, if HOA rules allow) vegetable garden. The series will be broken into the following:
- Getting Started
- Gardening with Kids
- Maintaining a Successful Garden
- Edible Landscaping
- Using What You Grow
- Recycling What You Can’t Use
- Community Connection
I want to start this first blog in the series focusing not on the nuts and bolts of gardening, but rather on the many great health benefits that gardening can provide. In my own life, the garden has always been a place of rest and restoration. During times of stress, I seek out opportunities to feel the connection between my small existence and the great expanse of nature. I have been lucky to travel to some of the most beautiful and majestic landscapes on the planet, but when travel is impossible even a small plot of land can provide the escape I need. With my hands in the dirt and my thoughts on the careful tending of plants, I am present in the moment. Personally, I find gardening to be an almost primordial activity. I feel a unique and visceral link to my ancestors when I bite into a carrot or tomato that has been grown by my own hands. In the tumultuous present, I choose to focus on the moments and manage my anxiety and stress through an activity that brings me joy.
If you need some inspiration, check out this playlist of videos from TED.com that discuss the “power of gardening and nourishing the nature around us”.
Below are only a few benefits of gardening. The (not comprehensive) list of benefits includes; exercise and flexibility, stress reduction, and healthy eating.
Exercise and Flexibility:
Gardening can burn anywhere from 150-400(!) calories per hour depending on the type of activity in which you are engaged. Raking and carrying debris will burn more calories than sitting and pulling weeds, for instance. As you sit down, squat, kneel or stretch to reach fruit or flowers you are enhancing your flexibility and practicing low impact strength training.
Time spent in the outdoors has been linked to improved mood, reduction in stress, lower blood pressure and increased happiness. These effects are amplified in a garden, where you are engaging in the act of growing. Even just a few moments spent, scouting for pests or watering can vastly improve my mood. (I’ve learned too, as a parent of small children, that when my one year old is upset, a trip outside to the garden will instantly cease the fuss.)
The more foods and herbs that we grow in our home garden, the more likely that we incorporate those foods into our home cooking. An increase of fresh vegetables in your diet is linked to reduced symptoms of heart disease, improved digestive health and generally an increase in good health indicators. As you learn how to incorporate these foods into your cooking routine, you may begin to expand your culinary expertise and try new recipes.
During the current global health crisis, it is important to remember that we need to take care of ourselves while we take care of our global community. I look forward to sharing with you resources and articles written by UF experts and Master Gardener Volunteers to encourage you along your gardening journey. Be well and enjoy the time with loved ones.
Look for our next installment of the series which will cover how to get your garden started.