Gardening . . . good for the soul, good for the environment

October 24, 2014

Many of us grew up believing that gardening was something only our grandparents did. We may have even thought our granny to be a bit weird in her sun hat and clogs. Even if our family had a vegetable garden, we thought it was time-consuming, boring and hard work.


peace in the garden

Even creating and tending a small planter can bring joy and contentment.

They knew something we didn’t though . . . that gardening was not only good for the environment, but also good for the soul. Study after study has shown that the simple act of gardening – even if it’s only tending a few potted plants – can provide a sense of well-being. Studies in the Netherlands demonstrated that during time spent gardening, participants’ cortisol levels drop, creating a sense of calmness and relief. Life Satisfactory Inventory A studies conducted at Texas A&M showed that in comparing gardeners and non-gardeners, gardeners had substantially higher scores in components including “zest for life” and “optimism”.   There’s also no doubt that growing your own vegetables can be good for your health, especially if you take the organic approach.


And here’s another little dirty secret: dirt is good for us – literally! By digging in the dirt, you’re actually stirring up some pretty amazing bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, known to stimulate serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain.


peace in the garden

Gardens give us a chance to use all of our senses.

And then there is simply the pleasure of being outdoors, being at one with nature, feeling the elements and all that goes with that. There’s the pleasure of tending a plant and watching it grow. And of course, there are the physical benefits of gardening; it’s truly “purposeful exercise”.


As to the “work” part of it all, there are plenty of ways to enjoy gardening without committing to weekends of back-breaking labor.


Here are 5 easy ways to start enjoying the benefits of gardening:


1) Choosing the right plants is the first step – plants that are easy-care and perhaps equally important, ones that don’t require chemicals to keep them producing and strong.  A wise selection of plants can not only save you time and money but also helps to protect our environment.


small gardens

Organic gardeners can combine food, herbs and ornamentals in small gardens

2) If you’re ready to try your hand at vegetable gardening, start small. Select varieties recommended by garden center staff or check online to see which varieties grow best in your area. For instance, old favorites like Brandywine tomatoes and Lady Bell sweet peppers consistently rank highly among vegetable gardening enthusiasts. Buy plants that look healthy and have been well tended (soil is moist but not soggy, leaves and stems are strong green, and you may even see a few roots coming out the bottom of the pot). Vegetables that are easy to grow by seed in almost any climate include carrots, green beans, lettuce and cucumbers plus low-maintenance herbs like basil, dill and parsley.


3) If you want to add some color and interest to your landscape, patio or garden be certain to select ornamental plants that require little maintenance and perform without the use of chemical fertilizers. For instance, Flower Carpet landscape roses were bred for disease resistance and require no special pruning or chemicals to perform all season long. Over the past 20 years, multiple varieties of Flower Carpet roses have been awarded the All Deutschland Rose Award; this award honors outstanding roses that do not require spraying or any chemical support.


landscape roses

Flower Carpet roses are the original “eco rose”

These roses are extremely drought tolerant which, depending on your location, is also something that should be considered when choosing plants. Other colorful low-maintenance, drought-tolerant landscape plants include perennials like coneflower, salvia, Festival cordyline, California poppies, Russian sage, lavender, Storm agapanthus, lantana and shrubs like spirea, Bluebeard, Blue Star juniper and cotoneaster.


4) Container gardening is also an easy way to start, even if it’s only with one or two pots on the patio or rooftop. There are a myriad of vegetable varieties bred specifically for small gardens and containers, making it easier than ever to grow your own organic vegetables, even in limited spaces.


growing vegetables in containers

Dave Epstein shows us how to create a container with edibles and ornamentals

By choosing the right plants, multi-purpose containers can be created with one or two ornamental plants combined with herbs or vegetables. For instance, in his video “Creating an Organic Container Using Herbs, Flowers and Roses”, Dave Epstein provides step-by-step instructions on planting a mixed container and keeping it organic. Another attractive low-maintenance combination planter could include exotic Tropicanna cannas planted with oregano and hot chilli pepper plants. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. That’s half the fun of gardening, even on a very small scale!


5) And finally, regardless of how little or how much time you spend gardening, remember to set aside some time to sit quietly and enjoy the special space you’ve created. Smell the earth, listen to the birds and simply enjoy the sense of wellbeing and joy your garden can bring.


health benefits of gardening

Above all, enjoy your accomplishments in the garden, large or small


For hi-res downloadable images in this story starter, just click each image above and you’ll get instant links to each image on Flickr.  Need help?  Contact Judie Brower at

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