9 benefits of gardening

This is a classic hobby that has many benefits. Here are some reasons why you should start gardening today.

Photo by Erda Estremera on Unsplash

This is one of the oldest hobbies there is and it tends to be a favorite among retirees. But don’t be fooled — anyone of any age can enjoy gardening and the benefits that come along with it. A garden can be full of neat vegetable rows, stuffed with flowers, or comprised of containers on your balcony. There are many ways to garden! Here is a list of 9 benefits of gardening:

1. Gardening is for beginners, the experienced, and everyone in between

In kindergarten, my classmates and I were all given a cup, potting soil, and a single seed. We were instructed by our colorfully dressed teacher to put the seed into the dirt — not too deep — and give it some water any time it seemed too dry.

Lining the windowsills of our classroom were the cups that we would impatiently check as often as we were allowed to leave our seats. After a week or so we found little green sprouts emerging from our soil. Success! Our tiny brains were going haywire with excitement.

I was in disbelief at the idea that a plant could emerge from such a tiny seed. Though I am much older, the child-like glee I experienced when I grew my first plant is still felt each time I plant a seed now.

My grandmother planted plants well into her 90’s. Her lovely aged hands would move away dirt with a trowel, squeeze the 6-pack plastic plant container, place the geranium in the hole, and push the remaining dirt around until the hole was filled. She perhaps got as much joy as the kindergarten-aged me did.

In the garden, all are welcome. Nature does not care about our political beliefs, our flaws, our fame or destitution. It does not care about our level of experience or age. It is a hobby that will welcome us at any age.

2. It’s good for your physical health

Bend, squat, sit, stretch! Lift, walk, dig, toss! The garden provides plenty of exercise opportunities by welcoming all levels of engagement and abilities. It is a sneaky gymnasium for the unsuspecting.

Often times, I will go out to sit on my deck, planning to relax for 20 minutes and then go back inside. Inevitably, I will see weeds that need to be removed or maybe I’ll have some bulbs to divide. Whatever it is, I never seem to sit still because I can always spot something to. Finally, when I do go inside, I am told that I was out there for 2 hours! So much for 20 minutes…!

Sometimes the best exercise is the kind you do without realizing you're doing it. Gardening is definitely one of those types of exercises.

3. It’s awesome for your mental health

When I was practicing as a mental health counselor, my patients and I would have many discussions about coping skills. Every person was unique in their responses except when it came to one particular coping skill: spending time in nature.

Almost without fail, my patients would tell me time and time again how spending time outdoors in nature was so positive for their mental health. No surprise, I thought. There are countless studies supporting this idea.

In fact, E.M.D.R. or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, was discovered when Francine Shapiro was walking in the woods and found that processing difficult emotions was easier because of how she was using her eyes — moving them back and forth i.e. looking all around.

Fresh air and sunshine cannot be underestimated. After I’ve spent most of my day cooped up in my office writing, I can get pretty grumpy. But then I notice my flowers peaking in the windows, coaxing me to come outside. I give in and once I'm out there, I feel like a different person. My friends who garden have shared this same sentiment and I think it’s no coincidence.

There is something special about planting a seed and seeing it emerge from the soil. Being in nature gives us perspective. We notice little bugs hiding, curse at the rabbits and deer that eat our plants, and marvel at the kaleidoscope of colors in the evening skies. It helps us to relax but also shows us that we are a part of the greater world.

Photo by Dmitry Dreyer on Unsplash

4. Gardening teaches you patience

Life moves pretty fast. Yes it’s cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Before I start quoting Ferris Bueller, I have to say that most of us already know this. We are reminded of it constantly; time is precious, enjoy the moment, blah-blah blah.

That knowledge alone can only take us so far. What will take us the distance is actually doing the things that push us into the moment and make us slow down. Technology based entertainment has the tendency to zap our time in the worst way. Plus, the demands of a productivity-based society force us to constantly be on the go.

In comes gardening. There is no instant gratification here. When you plant a seed, there is no guarantee that it will grow. There is also no telling how big the tomatoes will get or if the pumpkins will reach full size in time for Halloween.

Anticipation is the name of the game. Each day I water the plants, occasionally with fertilizer. I have to be aware of my plants’ needs. Watching plants emerge from the soil, or vegetables ripen — being able to witness the bloom of a dahlia or hibiscus for the first time is an unparalleled experience because I worked hard for a reward that was uncertain.

The patience I learn in the garden’s classroom spreads to other areas of my life. Everything has its own timeline. I know that hard work has no guarantees, but there is much to be gained in the process, rather than the outcomes. Journey > Destination.

5. You can garden any time of the day (or night)

If you are one of my neighbors and you have seen someone outside rooting through my shrubs in a headlamp, I thank you for not calling the cops. That was me.

While I am an avid gardener, you will rarely see me outdoors in the blazing sun. Seldom do I work in the garden between the hours of 11am and 3pm. The heat is killer.

To avoid the heat grumps, I tend to garden at dusk in the early evening. It is cool out, there are less bugs, I don’t need to worry about sunburn, and the amount of time I spend in the garden is not restricted by the temperature.

In my opinion, the gardeners who have it best figured out are the ones who are outside early in the mornings. One of the best times to be in the garden is when the ground is still covered in dew and the birds are still singing their morning songs. They get to watch the world wake up without the interruptions from family or the din of lawnmowers.

Whether you are an early bird or night owl, I promise there will be a perfect time for you to garden… it can be whenever you want!

Photo by Ciel on Unsplash

6. It attracts wildlife

Children love animals and bugs. Any time my niece or nephew go outside, they transform into explorers. They carry magnifying glasses, don their rainboots, and proudly wear adventure hats. They are more prepared for wilderness exploration than some college students are for an 8 am class.

Out they go to overturn logs in search for salamanders. They tiptoe to sneak up on birds nesting in the trees. They marvel at moths with intricate wing patterns that blend in so well that only the most astute observer could notice.

From them, I learn the wonders of discovery — that it’s important to take time and notice the life that is all around us. They encourage me to appreciate how much life there is in just an acre of greenspace.

Personally, I love to be serenaded by the songs of birds at sunrise. Or to sit still enough so that I can watch the humming bird wiz by only to stop for a moment at my hanging basket. Whether it’s the bats that swoop to eat mosquitoes at night or squirrels that stuff there mouths with acorns, I am amazed at the amount of life that is welcomed by the environment I help to foster.

And then on the flip side, it is my belief that no gardeners life is complete without an animal adversary. While we understand and value the balance that diverse wildlife brings to the ecosystem, we still won’t hesitate to curse the pests in our lives.

I think that garden pests give us a challenge that we secretly love. Trying to outsmart the raccoons, shield the plants from the deer, and ward off rabbits give us meaning, albeit a hilarious one.

7. It helps the bees

While this technically falls under ‘wildlife,’ I felt compelled to give bees their own category. Without bees and other pollinators, there would be no humans. Without humans, bees and pollinators would thrive. Research has made it clear that we need them much more than they need us.

It is humbling to realize that a tiny bug is essential to the survival of humanity. As an act of gratitude, I do my best to welcome them. So I plant flowers with long blooming seasons and other plants that pollinators love. I let the Joe-Pye weed grow at the edge of the forest rather than trimming it back like my neighbors do, because I know the butterflies love it and its starting to grow on me.

Now, I don’t always succeed in my planting schemes to maximize flora that attracts pollinators, but I keep trying. Each year there are more and more plants for them because of me. And as for you: know that each plant you plant is helping the ecosystem. An impact is an impact, no matter how small.

8. It can give you a sense of accomplishment

Life is predictably unpredictable and can bring us to our knees. After let-downs and failures thoughts swirl in my head: I really screwed that up, why bother trying again? When I am overwhelmed, I escape to the garden. There I can see successes that are the direct result of what I have done.

After all the waiting and patience, there often comes a reward. Whether it’s a meal made entirely of food from the garden or a sweet bouquet I can give to a friend, I am shown that I can do things with success. I am capable. And that small tasks completed over time result in big wins.

9. It brightens up the neighborhood

Not only does gardening make your yard look good, it also helps to brighten up you neighborhood. Have you ever noticed the neighbor effect? It’s when one of the houses on the street does something — like create out-of-this-world Halloween décor or go crazy with the Christmas lights — and a few other neighbors follow suit. This happens with gardening, too!

The more we add to our garden, the more we notice neighbors add to theirs. Now, I’m not saying we are the trendsetters of the neighborhood. Other factors certainly play a role in someone deciding to alter their landscaping. But what I am saying is that we have been at least a mildly positive influence on our neighbors and maybe even our community as a whole.

Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash

To conclude…

9 is an arbitrary number. Because if you ask anyone who gardens, they will tell you the benefits are endless. Their lists may be a lot like mine or they may be completely different. Either way, gardening is a hobby that has the potential to bring you great joy in life. So what are you waiting for? Go out and try it. I dare you.

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Olympia Schrift

Olympia Schrift

Gardening & Lifestyle writer + peony enthusiast olympiaschrift.com