By Janis Kiefet, for the National Gardening Bureau
Mobile phones, tablets and apps have become the tools of our modern lives. But it wasn’t that long ago that a shovel, a patch of soil and a bag of seeds were the only tools needed to provide sustenance and satisfaction.
With the 2020 COVID pandemic, more and more people abandoned technology, at least for a short time each day, to spend time in the garden. Ask any new or experienced gardener why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons why it’s important to them.
Here are National Garden Bureau’s Top Ten Reasons to Garden:
1. Garden for safe, healthy food.
Reports of foodborne illnesses and contamination regularly appear in the news media. Growing concerns about pesticides in our food supply have led to an increased interest in organic gardening and the availability of organic produce. Processed foods contain additives and preservatives that many consumers want to avoid. The pandemic made some people question our food supply. An easy solution is to grow your own vegetables. It’s estimated that during WWII, 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens that produced close to 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. The numbers of new gardeners in 2020 are estimated at 16–20 million. Start your own garden and know the food you’re eating is fresh, safe and has a fantastic flavor.
2. Garden for exercise.
Tired of the gym routine? Can’t get to the gym? Get a good workout without even thinking about it. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass is like taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class, while hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting. Adaptive tools help those whose physical limitations prevent some activities. And after you’re finished, you see immediate results in your garden even as your physical health improves—without being bored.
3. Garden to add beauty.
A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Your home can be made more inviting simply by adding a container of color near the front door. Herbs in the kitchen add freshness as well as flavor to daily meals. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade but shelter for birds and wildlife. Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed whether you are inside or outside the house.
4. Garden to learn.
Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves provide the opportunity to find the cause and understand how to keep plants healthy. Moving to a new house may mean leaving favorite plants but also provides the opportunity to discover new plants and growing conditions. There are a variety of ways to increase gardening know-how such as seminars, Master Gardener programs, vocational-technical courses and formal degree programs at a college or university.
5. Garden to make money.
For some people gardening is a lifelong hobby. For others, the love of plants can lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center, a large global company or even owning their own business. A garden can be a source of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and other crops that can be sold at local farmers’ markets and roadside stands. And whether you live in your dream home or plan on moving soon, gardening adds value to your property. Real estate agents estimate that attractive landscaping increases a home’s value by as much as 15%. It also creates interest in the house and can mean the difference between a potential buyer simply driving by or stopping to take a closer look.
6. Garden to meet people.
Gardening is a great way to expand your social circle. Whether it’s with someone who lives down the street or halfway around the world, gardeners love to talk about plants. Surplus tomatoes, a bouquet of flowers or an extra plant are gifts to be shared with friends and neighbors. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs, plant organizations and social media is an easy way to share information, ask questions and get involved.
7. Garden to be creative.
Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden’s design can reflect a personal sense of style such as a romantic cottage garden or a peaceful Japanese garden, as well as provide a showcase for art and sculpture. Like to try something new? With the wide variety of seeds and plants available, it’s easy to experiment with new plants or change a garden’s color scheme every year.
8. Garden to win.
For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off their skills. Garden clubs regularly have shows that highlight the best flowers grown by local gardeners. County and state fairs provide an opportunity to show everyone the giant pumpkin, beautiful beans or luscious tomatoes harvested from the garden. And photo-driven social media sites like Instagram are a natural way to show your successes!
9. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections.
Gardens play an important part in our well-being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success, while neighbors and visitors often express their appreciation of those efforts. On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food for your table. Tending a garden also contributes to improving your own living space, the environment and our planet.
10. Garden for lasting memories.
Yards that once grew gardens have been replaced with hot tubs and driveways. Today’s kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, even if the garden is a single container or small spot in the yard. And a garden provides a beautiful way to remember a special person or time of life.
This article was supplied by the National Garden Bureau, a non-profit organization promoting the pleasures of home gardening, which encourages you to discover your own reason to become a gardener. Whatever reason appeals to you, gardening is a satisfying activity that provides a lifetime of benefits.
Photos also supplied by the National Garden Bureau.
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Hi Nad’a, the article is up as of today (May 9)! Thanks so much! Larry
Hi Larry, just discovered your blog and I must comment here… I became a gardener last spring thanks to the pandemic lockdown. My mom, who had been tending our garden for 30 years, had eye surgeries last April and could not work in the garden. Also, she no longer enjoyed gardening and only saw it as a chore for the last few years. Then the lockdown here in Slovakia happened and I was stuck at home, on home office, with nowhere to go and not much to do. So I looked around and saw an opportunity… And I never looked back! A year later I am in love with gardening more and more every day. I am now fully rejuvenating and re-landscaping my mom’s 0.3 acre garden that, it turns out, was quite tired and neglected. In the process, I’ve been giving myself a crash course in horticulture, making things tidy and beautiful again, bringing more life and color to our environment and, most importantly, I found incredible peace, joy and stress relief in the garden work. While other people around me are stressing out and feeling a lot of anxiety around covid-19, vaccinations, politics…I am planning what to dig out and what to plant where and when. Gardening is the best therapy. It’s been almost exactly a year since I planted my first plant in the garden and I feel like a changed person – so much calmer, more productive, happy, proud of myself. I really recommend to anyone who has the tiniest plot of dirt around their house to plant something. It might change their life. 🙂 So happy I found your helpful blog, I will be reading it from now on.
What a lovely testimony! And your English is so good! I have a strange question for you: would you object if I published your letter in my blog. Possibly a title like “A Letter from Slovakia”. I think it would be a wonderful story to share! Do let me know! And perhaps give me your last name and the name of the city where you live.
Hi Larry, so sorry, I got busy planting a lot of stuff and didn’t check back for days. Sure, you can publish my comment. 🙂 My name is Na?a Clontz, I live in Stara Tura, Slovakia. Thanks for the compliment on my English, I studied in the US for quite a few years. 🙂
Thank you so much, Nad’a. I’ll probably post the letter next week! Keep a look out for it!
When we were is school, a professor told us, “If you want to make money in your career, you need to change your major now.” He meant that no one gets wealthy from horticulture. I made a career of it because it is what I do. Horticultural industries had formerly been respectable here. However, there are better ways to make money.
Writing about gardening, what I do, is no more well paid. It’s a vocation. Few people actually even make a living at it.
Other people must ‘work’ for a living though. Some of us get to do what we enjoy.
It is a scarred tradition over many years, for many people.