Did you grow up like me? Gardening all summer long?
When I was growing up, gardening wasn’t an option. #1, my mom LOVED gardening and #2, as a single mother of 5 living on a music teacher’s salary, it was one of her favorite ways to save money and since she had 5 unpaid workers, she could grow so much more!
Of course, at the time, I didn’t love weeding and hoeing and going out at night to pick snails off the plants but somehow, I managed to become an adult who LOVES to garden. And, somehow, I was actually able to convey that love to my daughter, Jake.
She LOVED picking snails off the plants at night with our flashlights and buckets. She LOVED putting on her garden boots and mucking about. Luckily, our gardening activities never became a “must-do” chore for her and as she attended a Waldorf school for 12 years, I think it became one of her favorite subjects.
So, it was no surprise to me that she jumped at the chance to become our “Chief Farmer” when we opened our rooftop, urban, aeroponic farm, Chapala Gardens in the heart of Santa Barbara in 2012.
Whether you grow in the soil, as I did growing up or you grow aeroponically as we do now, the benefits to your health and our planet are the same.
For this reason, we are seeing many therapies embrace gardening as treatment; in fact, there is a whole branch of therapy for just this called “horticulture therapy”.
We are seeing schools, prisons, community centers, homeless shelters, juvenile detention centers and nursing homes utilize the healing power of gardening to help improve mental and physical health of the populations they serve in addition to promoting productivity and education.
Let’s dive in.
Gardening provides stress-relief and builds self-esteem.
Studies have actually shown that gardening improves the mood of the gardener and can decrease the hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are high, problems like obesity, autoimmune disorders, heart disease and diabetes follow suit. When cortisol levels are low, we can experience a calm sense of peace.
Gardening can improve brain function and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
An amazing 16-year study of 3000 elderly people found that those who gardened regularly were 35% less likely to develop any type of dementia!
There are so many variables involved in gardening: being outdoors, being active, feeling productive, etc. that it’s easy to see how gardening could be so key in protecting the brain.
Gardening can help cure loneliness.
Being outside in your garden naturally puts you where you might be in contact with other humans! The chances of this increase if you grow in a community garden, which are more and more prevalent.
Another factor is that taking up any hobby naturally has you reaching out more: buying materials, joining groups of similarly interested people and simply talking more about your hobby!
Gardening can improve mental health and help you to overcome depression.
Gardening stimulates so many sensory experiences! Feeling productive, feeling connected, enjoying the smells and sight of what you’re growing.
Biologist Edward Wilson called this “biophilia”…the natural tendency to want to feel connected with the web of life.
Gardening is a perfect activity for children.
As I mentioned earlier, when Jake was young, she saw all of our gardening activities as fun things she got to do with me and later, in school, it was a welcome break from more intellectual pursuits in the classroom.
Gardening is a way for children to learn more about nature and more importantly, where their food comes from. We also know that kids who grow their own veggies eat more of them.
Our friend, Stephen Ritz of the Green Bronx Machine, has developed an entire curriculum designed to teach core curriculum using gardening as a medium. (This is a fascinating project that we will write more about another time.)
Gardening might greatly improve your nutritional status.
Obviously, this is implying that you are growing fruits and vegetables and then actually eating them!
Gardening may help you like vegetables you previously thought you hated!
Part of this will come from the sheer love of eating what you grow and part from the fact that most home-grown produce tastes much better than anything you can buy at the store.
Gardening can improve immune function.
Exposure to naturally occurring bacteria from growing plants and Vitamin D from the sun can stimulate immune function but one of the biggest ways gardening improves immune function is by eating the nutrient dense food you are growing!
Gardening may improve heart health and reduce your risk of stroke.
Whatever type of gardening you’re doing, it will involve some exercise…a proven activity to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Getting some Vitamin D from sun-exposure also helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer. And of course, eating the produce you’re growing is key!
Gardening can improve dexterity and hand strength.
Many of us lose the strength and dexterity in our hands as we age. The activities involved in gardening can be a workout and tune-up for our hands!
Gardening can help to clean the air and decrease the effects of global warming.
We owe our life to plants. Plants remove the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and release oxygen…how cool is that?!
In addition to your vegetable garden, having 2 large trees in your yard can produce the amount of oxygen a family of 4 needs to survive! I love that! Might I recommend fruit trees?
As I said earlier, Jake and I grow with closed loop aeroponic systems which use only 5-10% of the water and resources used in traditional gardening and farming methods AND because it’s a closed loop system, nothing from our growing operation gets into the waterways. This run-off from gardens and farming is one of the leading causes of the algal bloom that gets exacerbated by global warming.
Gardening, in the right way can help to bring back our natural pollinators, bees, birds and butterflies.
There you have it! A dozen reasons to garden! Are you ready to get started? Have questions about the best for you? Just reach out to us! We’ll help you explore your options.