Jul 17, 2020

Beat the coronavirus blues

The mental health benefits of gardening

everyone deserves fresh produce

The mental health benefits of gardening

Dawn Bertuca's most recent photo of her GardenWorks demo garden

Dawn Bertuca's most recent photo of her GardenWorks demo garden

By Hayley Anderson

The last few months in America have been an unprecedented time of considering health. Social distancing measures have been put in place to protect the physical health of citizens, but have created a crisis of mental health instead.

Everyone is facing huge amounts of stress and fear: for themselves, their families, and the world, as well as high degrees of social isolation which can lead to depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes this risk and encourages everyone to make sure they take a break from the onslaught of news media to connect with others when possible and sleep regularly; however, there might be another, less-often considered, solution to the calamity of anxiety.

 

Gardening. 

Interest in vegetable gardening has gone up in the last few months as people try to find productive things they can do at home. In fact, you may have noticed that many seed and gardening companies have had products on backorder, and even sold out of supplies. There are a few reasons why gardening has become a popular activity during these uncertain times.

Gardening gets you outside in the fresh air

You connect to the earth, which, even as COVID rages around us, remains a constant that we can rely on. This connectedness to nature, paired with physical activity, grounds us and forces us to dwell in the present instead of being anxious about the future. The routine care of something living is beautiful and often meditative. There is a huge body of research to prove that being around green things reduces stress and boosts health, and at the end, if the garden is successful, you have lots of fresh and healthy things to eat! Taking care of our bodies is a huge part of putting ourselves in the right mindset.

Gardening is a practice in accepting things we can’t control

Anyone who has gardened before knows about the unexpected barriers that pop up no matter how prepared or experienced you are. There will be weather events that damage your plants or some unknown pest that you can’t seem to get rid of, but gardening forces us to let go of perfectionist tendencies. We must rely on the processes of nature, and this reliance offers a sense of freedom. This isn’t to say that there is nothing we can do to help our gardens succeed. Experiential learning from failure is commonplace in gardening and not only encourages gardeners to keep gardening, but keeps our mindsets plastic and open to change. 

Gardening builds community

It creates a common experience that fosters conversation and friendship. Gardens offer a natural opportunity to ask your neighbors what they're growing and how they cook the things they grow, or to teach them how to start a garden. Gardening promotes cross-cultural conversation as we learn about the veggies, fruits and herbs that others grow and share our families’ recipes and growing secrets. There are networks, online and in person, to facilitate this connection between gardeners- forums, book clubs, seed shares, etc. Gardening is a subculture and envelopes its members in a sense of camaraderie. 

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, try breaking out the spade and planting a pack of seeds. We hope you feel joy and a little bit of peace as they slowly fight their way up out of the soil and flourish. Gardening can be as big or small of a commitment as you make it, but it helps us to have even a little bit of green in our lives. 

Be sure to check out Dawn Bertuca's most recent post, Good Eats & Squash Bugs--you aren't alone in experiencing ups and downs of gardening!

We're all in this together. Share the ups and downs of your season with us. Send photos to info@gardenworksproject.org, and your story may be profiled in our e-news and on social!


Hayley Anderson graduated from Wheaton College with a B.S. degree in environmental science. She grew up in Kentucky and is passionate about agriculture because of the deep impact it has on people and the earth. She is currently working as a research aid at the Morton Arboretum and hopes to use her passion and expertise to benefit an agricultural nonprofit.