The fresh breeze whispering through your hair. The sun gently kissing your skin. Your hands tenderly patting at the soil before you in a caress so dear, it would not be surprising for onlookers to think you were swaddling a newborn child. Perhaps. Perhaps the flowers are your child, the fruits and vegetables the rewards of your labor and the landscape your legacy. Gardening and landscaping have never felt so rewarding, so beneficial as now.
Beyond likening your mini-ecosystem to family, here are the top 10 benefits of gardening and landscaping:
- Steady supply of food – Every season, the culinary benefits of gardening overflow into kitchens, pantries and grocery stores. Traditional harvest season, which occurs in the fall, can provide plenty of fruits and vegetables such as apples,cranberries, pumpkins and squash. According to the University of Minnesota, a number of vegetables can even be left over winter to maintain a steady supply of food which can be harvested in the spring and summer, such as kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, collard greens and garlic.
- You are what you eat – It makes sense for a gardener to reap what he or she sows – and to consumer. As gardeners consume more fruits and vegetables as products of their work, the amount of unhealthy and processed food they eat decreases, As a result, gardeners take in more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than those who do not garden, making them healthier.
- Low level of exercise – While it’s no ultramarathon, gardening and landscaping do require a moderate amount of exercise. Digging, raking, kneeling and lifting equipment repetitively for hours at a time increase blood flow and heart rate while also working the muscles and increasing range of motion. Because gardening and landscaping are not high intense workouts, they serve as perfect exercises for those who have difficulty moving or are undergoing physical rehabilitation.
- Builds hand strength and dexterity – As we age, we lose dexterity and hand strength, especially in the hands, narrowing the range of activities that are possible or pleasurable for us to enjoy. Gardening conditions those hand muscles, keeping them strong and agile. Alternating between the right and left hands when gardening or landscaping will ensure both hands maintain their dexterity.
- Increases levels of vitamin D – Even though gardeners may have a steady supply of nutrients with their harvest, very few foods actually contain vitamin D. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin because it is primarily acquired through exposure to sunlight, is instrumental in preventing a number of chronic illnesses, such as a rheumatoid arthritis, hyperparathyroidism (which can lead trigger osteoporosis), and in children can cause the bone-deforming disease rickets.
- Decreases stress levels – According a 2011 study in the Netherlands, gardening is shown to improve mood and decrease cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the primary stress level. Decreasing stress levels allows one to be more relaxed, boosts immune system function and enables one to be more productive.
- Boosts immune system function – While gardening and landscaping may not seem to be the cleanest activity to participate in, the dirt that gets stuck beneath your fingernails may some useful properties. The “friendly: soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, common in garden dirt and absorbed by inhalation or ingestion on vegetables, has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis, allergies, asthma and even decrease levels of anxiety.
- Provides mental health benefits – A study conducted in 1995 found that participating in leisure activities such as a gardening and landscaping can reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly. The growing trend of horticultural therapy has also provided results for patients with depression and other mental illnesses, revealing a decrease in depression severity and increase in mental focus.
- Therapeutic properties – Horticultural therapy can be customized to one’s own personal preferences. To design your own, aim for a combination of fruits and vegetables as well as scented and flowering plants to nourish all the senses – from visual aesthetic appeal to the refreshing scent of fresh flowers to the nutritional benefits. It’s no coincidence that gardens aimed at interactive health and healing have popped up in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes,and in community centers for homeless populations and at-risk youth.
- Fosters a confidence and satisfaction: Once the flowers have bloomed and the fruits have been harvested, looking back on the work that went into the gardening and landscaping will provide you with an overwhelming sense of pride, confidence and satisfaction. The knowledge of having created a landscape and garden so aesthetically pleasing will release an unmatched euphoric feeling.