Written By Nathalie Grogan, Grant Writing and Development
Home gardens and community gardens are an essential component of environmental sustainability, food security and environmental justice, but the health benefits of gardening are also experienced immediately by those who garden! While Each Green Corner’s overall mission is to create sustainable, permaculture inspired, culturally diverse food gardens to combat food insecurity, an integral part of that mission is inspiring others to create their own gardens. So, without further ado, read on for the varied health benefits of growing your own fruits and veggies!
Did you know that produce begins to lose its nutritional value as soon as it is picked (Healthline)? So, for the fruits and vegetables that are grown on farms and are picked, packed, transported and distributed to grocery stores, a significant loss of nutrients has occurred in the weeks that process takes. For example, green peas have been shown to lose 51% of their Vitamin C in the first 24-48 hours after harvest (Healthline)! Additionally, store bought fruits and veggies are often picked before they are fully ripe to make sure they don’t spoil before they can be sold. Sadly, this means that these plants do not have time to develop their full range of nutrients. Overall, it is far better to eat produce from your own garden, or a local community garden, as it can be picked at peak ripeness and immediately eaten — delivering a full range of healthy nutrients!
The mental health benefits of gardening are varied and deeply impactful, as Psychology Today links gardening to lowered levels of anxiety, stress and depression through experiences of imperfection, growth, connection, mindful presence, and ‘bathing in green’.
When growing one’s own food, imperfection is natural and necessary. Plants don’t always grow how or when we expect, and hard work doesn’t always yield the largest harvest or the most perfect produce. In a culture where perfection seems to always be the goal, gardening affords important perspective, which in turn helps with feelings of anxiety and depression (Psychology Today).
Gardening is also an inherently interconnected activity, with many opportunities to connect with other gardeners through community gardens, shared experiences, and gardening clubs! Each Green Corner recognizes the social value of gardening, and provides volunteers, students, and stewards with the opportunity to connect at Residential Gardening sites and Living Campus sites! Furthermore, gardening creates a connection between the gardener and the earth, which allows for important perspectives pertaining to our own roles and values, as well as a connection to other living things. The social aspect of these connections, both to other people and to the earth, have been proven to help with feelings of stress, depression and anxiety (Psychology Today).
Just being surrounded by nature, or ‘bathing in green’, has been found to have numerous health benefits, such as better recovery from surgery, lowered anxiety and depression, better stress management skills, boosting the immune system, improved creativity, and so much more (Psychology Today). Well, it would seem it’s time for a stroll!
Gardening requires a wide range of movements with varied intensity, making it a full body experience of movement. Exercise has been proven to boost one’s mood and lower feelings of depression and anxiety, and as gardening is so varied in its opportunities for movement, it can be either a low impact activity or a muscle building workout — depending on whether you’re doing heavy lifting/intense digging, or engaging in pruning, planting and harvesting (onegreenplanet). Furthermore, the nutritional benefits of fresh produce have a massive, positive impact on physical health, as it fuels us efficiently and decreases the amount of processed food we eat (One Green Planet).
When we garden, we are responsible for growing, harvesting, transporting and preparing our food. In contrast, when we buy produce from the grocery store, we are largely removed from the system that brings our food to us. By growing one’s own produce, we are more mindful of our eating habits. According to Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, gardening “can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate,” (Harvard Health). This mindfulness allows us to fully savor a meal, and to appreciate the natural flavors of garden grown produce, instead of consuming excessive amounts of processed food (Harvard Health). Therefore, we eat healthier and enjoy the process of eating more!
All in all, the health benefits of growing your own produce are incredible! From mental health to physical health, engaging with the earth and taking an active role in our food systems is hugely beneficial for everyone. Make gardening into your own experience, whether that means planting herbs in pots on the porch, putting in raised beds, or attending a gardening event at Each Green Corner! To sign up, click on the Volunteers link on our website. We at EGC would love to connect with you all and be further inspired by your gardening explorations!
Bye for now, bathe in some green, plant some produce, and enjoy your day!
Brown, M. J. (2017, June 15). Fresh vs Frozen Fruit and Vegetables – Which Are Healthier? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4.
Engels, J. (2019, March 1). 9 Benefits of Homegrown Vegetables. One Green Planet. https://onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/9-benefits-of-homegrown-vegetables/.
Gillhan, Seth. (2019, June 19). 10 Mental Health Benefits of Gardening. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/think-act-be/201906/10-mental-health-benefits-gardening.
Godman, H. (2012, June 30). Backyard gardening: grow your own food, improve your health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/backyard-gardening-grow-your-own-food-improve-your-health-201206294984.