Though I’m reluctant to admit it, I often find myself envious of those blessed with gardens. Gardening appears daunting to me, a task beyond my grasp. I know what you are thinking. “Martha, take your own advice and start small.” And indeed, I have tried. One year, it was just tomatoes; another, only peppers. There’s undeniable joy and satisfaction in harvesting your own produce, yet inevitably, I find myself resorting to store-bought or market fare. Nevertheless, my gardening ineptitude serves a purpose—I happily support local farmers at the market each Saturday. So, why discuss gardening? Because it’s an activity teeming with health benefits, and I’m here to encourage you to give it a try (or to persist if you’re already an avid gardener).


Here are a handful of the health benefits awaiting those who enjoy playing in the dirt:


  1. Physical Exercise: Tending to your garden is a workout in itself. From squatting and lunging while nurturing your plants to hauling bags of mulch, gardening engages large muscle groups. Digging, raking, and even mowing the lawn can be surprisingly intense physical activities. Just ask the centenarians in the blue zones, such as Okinawa, where gardening is a beloved pastime. According to the Blue Zones website, “Almost all Okinawan centenarians grow or once grew a garden. It’s a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion.”


  1. Improved Diet: Gardening yields fresh fruits and vegetables, enriching your diet with wholesome goodness. As noted on the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Gardeners are more likely to include vegetables as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.” Each vegetable offers a unique nutritional profile—peppers boast anti-inflammatory capsaicin, tomatoes are packed with Vitamin C, and sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene. Plus, knowing exactly how your produce is grown, free from unwanted pesticides, is a bonus. Finally, vegetables out of our garden are the freshest we can get and fresh vegetables mean vegetables packed full of nutrients.


  1. Improved Microbiome: When we tend to vegetables in the dirt, we get exposed to a wide variety of microbial matter. According to Michael Mosley of BBC Gardener’s World Magazine, “Gardeners tend to be healthier and live longer not just because gardening is an active hobby but also gardeners are influencing their immune systems through contact with soil and microbes all around their gardens.”


  1. Connection with Nature: Spending time outdoors in your garden has myriad health benefits. From aiding digestion and bolstering the immune system to boosting oxygen levels in the blood, nature has a way of rejuvenating both body and soul. Basking in sunlight lowers blood pressure and ramps up Vitamin D production, while simply being amidst greenery reduces heart rate and muscle tension.


  1. Social Connection: Gardening fosters connections with like-minded individuals, creating a sense of community and camaraderie. Whether sharing knowledge, time, or even plants, the gardening community is a generous one. Community gardens serve as hubs for shared goals and mutual support, contributing to overall wellness. Feeling part of a group can mitigate stress, enhance resilience, and provide solace during life’s challenges, ultimately lowering the risk of depression and anxiety.


To kickstart your gardening journey, here are three tips from the Mayo Clinic’s website:


  1. Start Small: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Begin with a manageable plot, knowing you can always expand later.
  2. Build a Network: Seek out fellow gardening enthusiasts for advice and companionship. Online platforms like Facebook can be invaluable for connecting with local gardening groups.
  3. Research Your Plants: Not all plants thrive in every environment. Consult local resources like Master Gardeners or garden centers to select the right plants for your area.


Now, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re already a seasoned gardener, how did you get started? Did you find any of the tips above helpful? And if you’re eager to embark on your gardening journey, what’s holding you back? Let’s cultivate a conversation and grow together.