When my children were young, I wanted them to learn healthy eating habits. Part of that lesson was also to learn how to plant and grow fresh food of ourselves in our own backyard. They really enjoyed being able to go out and grab tomatoes, lettuce, or zucchini. In addition, there was a bountiful of healthy grab-and-go snacks they grew themselves.
Besides the healthy eating and cooking we did, there was healing going on inside them. They did not even see it happening!
Researchers found that bacteria found in the soil actually helped activate brain cells that could produce serotonin. That’s a pretty incredible addition to the sense of presence and mindfulness that gardening can bring. Gardening has even been used as therapy across a number of different populations. And the benefits seem to be widespread.
In one study, horticultural therapy was used with veterans who were struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The results showed that those who participated in gardening activities had a decrease in PTSD symptoms. They also had an increase in self-esteem and social functioning.
Other studies found that chefs who garden are more likely to use fresh ingredients in their meals. They’re also more likely to cook more meals at home. And finally, people who garden are more likely to have a higher intake of fruits and vegetables.
Benefits of gardening
- Helps fight disease
- Builds strength
- Improves memory
- Reduces stress
- Helps addiction recovery
- Fosters human connections, helps combat loneliness
- Heals and empowers
- Helps to manage eco-anxiety
(The American Psychological Association echoes the findings of numerous researchers: For many people, watching the gradual, unchecked effects of climate change is increasing daily stress levels and creating a burdensome sense of guilt.)
- Exposure to vitamin D
- Decreased dementia risk
- Mood-boosting benefits
- Enjoyable aerobic exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source says gardening is exercise. However, activities like raking and cutting grass might fall under the category of light to moderate exercise, while shoveling, digging, and chopping wood might be considered vigorous exercise.
Either way, working in a garden uses every major muscle group in the body. This fact won’t surprise anyone who’s woken up sore after a day of yardwork.
What is a culinary garden?
The culinary garden is a harvesting garden. Sometimes they call them kitchen gardens, chefs gardens, and urban farms. A Culinary Garden is a great way to grow fresher, better-tasting ingredients to use in the kitchen while saving money.
A few things you might want to grow in your culinary garden:
- Tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce, salsa, or gazpacho soup
- Peppers add spice to dishes with fresh jalapeños, bell peppers, or banana peppers
- Herbs to mix up homemade pesto, a caprise salad, or compound butter with fresh basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, or thyme.
- Lettuce to top a burger or make a salad with fresh arugula, spinach, or radicchio.
- Carrots are delicious to roast as a side dish or snack on them raw.
- Beets also can be roasted to add color and flavor to a salad.
- Potatoes can be made any way you want! Boil, bake, or fry them as a side dish or in the main course.
- Squash served roasted as a side dish, or use summer squash in ratatouille.
With a bit of planning, you can have a steady supply of fresh ingredients to use in your cooking all year long.
Ingredients that are fresh and grown close to your kitchen have more robust flavors. Herbs that are stored on a shelf lose their taste over time. If you have a culinary garden, you can avoid the storage shelf and get ingredients with better-tasting flavors.
How do you keep a herb garden in your kitchen?
It is essential to choose plants carefully. Opt-in for small-leaved herb varieties when possible, as they do the best indoors
- Make sure to provide plenty of light
- Ensure quality air circulation and cool conditions
- Watch watering, be sure to not over or under water. Balance!
- Rotate often
- Fertilize monthly
- Prune regularly
You do not have to be a chef to grow herbs in your kitchen. But if you are a beginner, we recommend starting with these five easy-to-grow herbs:
- Basil – Add basil to pizzas, pasta, salads, and sandwiches.
- Chives – Use chives as a garnish or in dips and potato dishes.
- Cilantro – Stir cilantro into soups, curries, and salsa.
- Mint – Make mint tea or add it to fruit salads and cocktails.
- Oregano – Sprinkle oregano on pizza, pasta, and salads.
Benefits of gardening for the environment
Fresh air and ground are cleansed. It creates a bird and insect habitat. Soil erosion is prevented. CO2 emissions are reduced. Cooling expenses are saved by as much as 50 percent or more. Stormwater is managed. Gardens act as a buffer against flooding and water pollution.
Some companies are now offering their employees on-site gardens as a wellness perk. Google, for example, has tens of thousands of square feet of gardening space at its Mountain View campus in California.
The company’s micro kitchens are stocked with produce from the on-site gardens, and employees can take cooking classes to learn how to use it.
Why is gardening so therapeutic?
In conclusion, gardening is a great activity to get involved in for many reasons. It can improve your physical and mental health, save you money, and be beneficial for the environment. So what are you waiting for? Get outside and start gardening today!
The benefits of gardening go beyond just the physical act of being outdoors and working with your hands. Gardening can also have a positive impact on mental health.
If you’re digging, hauling, and harvesting, your physical strength, heart health, weight, sleep, and immune systems all benefit. And those are just the physiological outcomes. Gardening can also cultivate feelings of empowerment, connection, and creative calm.
Whether your patch is large or small, a raised bed, community garden, or window box, getting dirty and eating clean are good for you.