Top 5 Gardening Benefits for Your Life and Health

A day of gardening by Howard County General Hospital's Population Health staff to provide Maryland Food Bank shoppers with fresh healthy vegetables.

A day of gardening by Howard County General Hospital’s Population Health staff to provide Maryland Food Bank shoppers with fresh healthy vegetables.

The health benefits of gardening are numerous. There is a certain symbiosis that exists between you and the earth when you start digging in the dirt.

Recently, the Population Health department at Howard County General Hospital volunteered to plant vegetables in the Howard County Community Garden as a team building exercise and as a way to give back to our community. The vegetables we planted will be donated to the Maryland Food Bank, providing people in need with healthy, organic and fresh vegetables.

Most of our team members had never gardened before and were amazed at how much they enjoyed the experience. As we prepared the garden plot, planted different types of vegetable plants and then mulched the beds to promote its health and future growth, we all stood back and admired the hard work of producing healthy, fresh food.

As a home gardener, it was wonderful to share my passion with my colleagues and to be a part of a movement that is promoting healthy eating and providing fresh, nutritious food to our community. There are many benefits to starting your own garden that go beyond just the food you produce.

Gardening is:

  1. Cost effective. One vegetable plant can produce vegetables throughout the season, saving you trips to the market and money on fresh produce. Vegetable and fruit plants as well as seeds are relatively inexpensive and are truly the gift that keeps on giving, all season long.
  2. Convenient. Once your plants start producing vegetables, just go into your yard and pick your own food.
  3. Organic. You don’t have to worry about toxins and chemicals on your own food because it’s all grown organically.
  4. Relaxing. Gardening can be a very therapeutic activity. In fact, studies have shown gardening’s positive benefits on reducing anxiety and stress, increasing activity levels, and improving mental clarity in people, not to mention producing healthy food that benefits overall wellness.
  5. Educational. Being out in the garden provides an opportunity to learn about the environment in which we live and how gardening success is dependent on natural factors such as weather (think April showers) and insects like bees that are critical to the pollination that makes our plants grow.

Gardening Tips for Newbies

  • Start small. Try an herb garden which is easy to grow and can be started in pots, and even grown inside on a windowsill.
  • Consider container gardening. Container gardens are great for individuals with small yards or no yard, or for people who are new to gardening and not ready to commit too much time and energy. Almost all vegetables grow well in containers and will produce all season long. Drill small drainage holes in inexpensive, large plastic pots, plant your veggies and watch them grow. Add some plant food a couple of times throughout the season, provide water and sun and enjoy your fresh produce.
  • Discover a community garden. Many communities throughout Maryland, including Howard County, have community gardens where you can rent a plot of land and plant your own garden. Universities may also sponsor a community garden and many communities provide access to master gardeners who can answer questions and help you get started. Learn more about Howard County Community Gardens.

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you’ll be amazed at what you can grow on your own. If gardening isn’t right for you, don’t despair! Throughout the spring, summer and fall growing seasons, local farms share their abundant produce at farmer’s markets throughout the county, so fresh and healthy foods are always ready for the picking.

Learn more about gardening from Gardening: It Does a Body Good and Beyond Veggies: Why Gardening is Good for You.

Laura Torres, LCSW-C, is a behavioral health program manager in Howard County General Hospital’s Population Health Department. Learn more about our Population Health programs at hcgh.org/populationhealth.

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