June 04, 2017 / Published 2:00 AM EST / Alyssa Charles, Staff Writer
Why gardening is good for your health
You don’t need to have a green thumb to enjoy the benefits of gardening. Not only is it fun to get your hands dirty, research has shown several positive correlations between gardening and good health.
While it won’t get your heartrate pumping, gardening is a great way to get moving, especially if you’re looking for a low impact activity. Gardening can also help you to burn up to 600 calories per hour while:
- Doing heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour
- Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
- Pulling weeds/planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour
- Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour
Along with the physical health benefits, gardening has also been linked to reducing stress, preventing Alzheimer’s and improving overall mental health. Research suggests that gardening can reduce cortisol levels (aka your “stress hormone”) which can promote relief from acute stress1. Digging in the dirt can aid stress relief as well. Exposure to Mycobacterium vaccae, a serotonin boosting bacteria commonly found in soil has similar effects to taking a serotonin boosting antidepressant medication2.
Homegrown is healthier
Eating homegrown fruits and vegetables comes with its own set of benefits. It allows you to choose which fertilizer comes into contact with your food and reduces the use of pesticides. Produce from your backyard garden also has more nutrients than produce from the grocery store, making them richer in vitamins and anti-oxidants. You also save on your grocery bill by not buying fruits and vegetables you can grow at home.
Whether you’re growing a few herbs in a small pot in your kitchen or starting a fruit and vegetable garden in your backyard, here are a few tips for planting your own produce.
- Start early and inside. Some plants need more sunshine and more time to sprout than others. You can start growing some of your produce in pots then transplant them outside once they’ve sprouted. Remember to pick a sunny area for planting because most produce needs 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.
- Root veggies and herbs are easiest. If it’s your first vegetable garden, try starting with the root vegetables and herbs you like most. Remember to plant your root vegetables about ½”-1” under the soil so they have enough room to grow.
- Give your produce enough room to grow. If your crops are too close together they may have to compete for sunlight and water and may not fully grow. Try spacing them out in a grid layout. This will give enough room to grow and keeps your garden organized so you know what to re-plant where the following year.