Gardening is an excellent way for anyone to connect with nature and spend time outside. It can be therapeutic, educational (and even fun!), but most importantly, gardening provides an abundance of fresh, homegrown produce.
You can get started with a garden in just about any style that will fit your space and lifestyle.
You might decide to plant herbs, vegetables or flowers, or a combination of them all. Each crop will have different growing needs, such as sunlight requirements and soil type, so use those factors to decide what you should grow and where.
If you don’t have a lot of room, a container garden or even square foot gardening are good options. Both methods will help you make the most of your garden space. You can grow a huge variety of crops in containers, whether your focus is flowers, vegetables, or herbs, and square foot gardening will avoid wasting any space.
Keep reading to see how starting a garden can help you personally. From saving money on groceries to reducing stress, here are nine reasons to get your hands dirty.
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1. Eat better with organic produce
You know exactly what you’re putting into your food when growing it yourself. By growing your own fruits and vegetables, you can control the use of pesticides and herbicides, unlike with store-bought produce.
Unless you buy certified organic produce, fruits, vegetables, and herbs bought in the grocery store have almost certainly been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals can be harmful to both your health and the environment. According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG), 70% of produce sold in the US has pesticide residue on it, even if you wash it once you get it home.
Grow your own produce, and you’ll know that it’s free of harmful chemicals and grown with love, not Round-up.
You have more control over your food source when you grow it yourself. When eating vegetables from a grocery store, it’s hard to tell how long ago the produce was harvested. In your backyard garden, though, you know exactly how long ago a particular food was harvested and brought to the table.
Homegrown veggies are also more nutritious and arguably taste better, contributing to a higher-quality diet and a better plateful of food. Picking homegrown produce right from your backyard means that the food was able to ripen on the plant rather than be picked unripe and allowed to mature on a truck or in the store.
Anyone who has compared a vine-riped tomato to one picked green to ripen off the plant can agree there’s no comparison!
2. Save money on your food bill
The cost of food continues to rise, but gardening can help you save. You could buy multiple packs with seeds for the same price it would cost to buy a few vegetables in the store; this is especially true if you buy organic produce options in the produce section.
In addition to buying seeds, you’ll need to invest in a handful of tools to get started. These upfront costs will pay off, though, once you begin harvesting fresh vegetables and flowers and you’re able to reduce your bill at the grocery store.
According to the National Gardening Association, the average household that invests just $70 into their garden can harvest up to $600 worth of produce in one year.
That’s motivation to get out there and plant a delicious garden! For some ideas of which foods to grow, here’s a list of the ones that will save you money: 11 Most Cost-Effective Foods to Grow (Beginner Friendly!).
3. Relieve stress and anxiety
Gardening is a great way to spend some time alone with your thoughts. Pulling weeds or raking a bed smooth can almost be meditative, so it’s no surprise that gardeners report higher levels of satisfaction and a decreased sense of anxiety.
According to Healthline, gardening is a mood and memory booster, relieves stress, and calms “ecoanxiety.” And, like any other form of exercise, it releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting and pain-reducing effects.
Whether you’re looking for some personal time or a new way to reduce stress, building a beautiful garden or growing nutritious food might be the answer.
Getting your hands in the garden soil, working with plants, and watching things grow can be highly satisfying and provide a feeling of accomplishment. If you’re looking for an activity that will allow you to zone out for a little bit while getting some exercise, gardening is it.
4. Practice goal setting and patience
One of the best things about gardening is that it’s an excellent opportunity to practice goal setting. Every gardener has different goals, from wanting to grow enough food to feed their family to growing beautiful flowers for show.
Whatever your green thumb goals may be, setting and working towards them is a valuable life skill. And there’s no better way to learn it than by starting a garden.
Starting a garden takes careful planning and creating a schedule to be successful. For example, if you want to grow a vegetable garden, you need to decide what vegetables you want to grow, when you’ll plant them, and how much space they’ll need.
Setting goals and reaching them can give a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction. Think of any to-do list you’ve ever written and how satisfying it was to cross off items as you completed them.
Gardening provides endless opportunities to do the same. Just imagine having this as your to-do list:
- Start cosmos seeds
- Transplant lettuce seedlings
- Trellis snap pea plants
- Order more plant labels
Each of those items can be broken down into multiple steps, encouraging you to practice setting mini-goals and having the patience to see them through.
Gardening can also teach us patience and how to persevere when things don’t go according to plan. It’s also a great way to learn about delayed gratification and how to handle disappointment.
If you haven’t yet lost a batch of seedlings to slugs or gone out to find your strawberries pecked to smithereens by crows, then you’re in for some interesting gardening adventures once you get started!
A tomato seedling might take a few weeks to germinate and several months before it’s ready to harvest. Understanding and accepting the timeline required for plants to grow can help instill patience in gardeners of all ages.
5. Connect to nature
Gardening gives you a chance to get outside and connect with nature. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of Americans spend most of their time indoors — as much as 90%!
Make an effort to change that by spending some time in your garden every day. You don’t need to have a green thumb or a huge backyard to reap the benefits of gardening. Even a small patio or balcony can be turned into a space for growing plants.
There’s something about getting your hands dirty and working in the garden that connects us to nature. Planting a seed and watching it grow is a magical process, and it can help us appreciate the natural world a little more when we’re typically so removed from it.
6. Get exercise and fresh air
Gardening is a great way to do physical activity without realizing it. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 30 minutes of gardening can burn as many calories as walking at a moderate pace for 30 minutes.
Don’t believe it? Think about the physical work that goes into gardening. Shoveling soil and compost, pushing a wheelbarrow, and carrying full watering cans require physical effort. And because you’re spending time outdoors, you’re getting some fresh air and vitamin D, too.
Don’t let the physical labor scare you off — there are ways to tailor your garden to your fitness level and ability, such as growing in containers or starting small with a tabletop planter of lettuce and herbs.
In addition, garden tasks can be broken down into smaller segments so that you can complete them in shorter periods. Choose the tasks that you enjoy and are physically able to do, and don’t feel guilty about taking a break when you need it.
7. Be environmentally friendly
Gardening not only has health benefits, but it’s also a great way to be more environmentally friendly. By growing your own produce, you’re reducing the energy and resources that go into transporting food to your local grocery store.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the typical American household of four wastes about $1500 worth of food each year. While the EPA doesn’t specify how much of that money was spent on fresh produce, it’s safe to say that that’s a lot of money and food wasted every year.
Growing food can help to reduce that number and be more mindful about where your food comes from. You’ll also be reducing the amount of packaging that your food comes in and minimizing food waste.
If you compost your kitchen scraps, you’re going one step further to reduce food waste. Some garden harvest will inevitably spoil before you get to it, but composting will help to minimize that and turn unused produce into organic matter for your next round of garden crops.
8. Help the bees
The ordinary bee is one of the most important animals in nature, as it provides pollination for plants. The pollination process, where bees transfer tiny grains of pollen from one plant’s flower to another, is how fruits and vegetables are created and how flowers like sunflowers can set seeds.
Without bees, many plants would be unable to produce any food, including many crops you probably eat regularly, such as tomatoes, zucchini, and even almonds.
The recent colony collapse disorder, in which bee colonies were dying at an alarming rate, brought much attention to honeybees, but failed to spotlight how important and endangered other bee species are. Native bees compete for food sources with dominant honeybees, so any extra food your garden can provide will help.
According to study from the Journal of Ecology, urban and suburban home gardens provide up to 85% of a bee’s diet. This makes you part of the effort to help bee populations by planting a backyard garden.
Not only will you be providing food for the bees, but you’ll also be getting some delicious fresh produce and flowers for yourself. It’s a win-win situation!
If you want to grow flowers for pollinators while also having a beautiful yard and fresh flowers for bouquets, check out this article for the top multipurpose flowers to grow: 9 Pollinator-Friendly Cut Flowers For Your Garden.
9. Prepare for emergencies
While a backyard garden isn’t usually enough to live on, it can supplement your food supply in a pinch. If there’s ever a natural disaster or other emergency that causes a food chain shortage, your garden will be there to help.
If you lose your job or there’s some other financial emergency, your garden can help to stretch your food budget.
Even if you have never experienced an emergency, it’s nice to know that you have the option of eating fresh, healthy food from your own backyard. Not to mention the fact that you’ll save money on groceries!
If disaster ever strikes, having the ability to grow your own food is a must. It will help keep you and your family fed, but it can also provide a sense of food security during difficult times.
Gardening is a great way to get outside, connect with nature, and boost your mood. It’s also a great way to save money on groceries and reduce your stress levels. What’s not to love?