Why Garden? The National Garden Bureau’s Top Ten
Cell phones, tablets, and Fit Bits have become the tools of our modern lives. But it wasn’t that long ago that a shovel, a patch of soil and a bag of seeds were the only tools needed to provide sustenance and satisfaction. Gardening was a part of daily life. Ask any gardener today why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons why it’s important to them.
1. Garden for safe, healthy food.
Reports of food-borne illnesses and contamination regularly appear in the news media. Growing concerns about pesticides in our food supply have led to an increased interest in organic gardening and availability of organic produce. Processed foods contain additives and preservatives that many consumers want to avoid. The National Garden Bureau believes an easy solution is to grow your own vegetables. It’s estimated that during WWII, 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens that produced close to 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. Start your own garden and know the food you’re eating is fresh and safe with fantastic flavor not always found in grocery store produce.
2. Garden for exercise.
Tired of the gym routine? Get a good workout without even thinking about it. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass is like taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class, while hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting. Adaptive tools help those whose physical limitations prevent some activities. And after you’re finished, you see immediate results in your garden even as your physical health improves—without being bored.
3. Garden to add beauty.
A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Your home can be made more inviting simply by adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door. Herbs in the kitchen add freshness to the room, as well as flavor to daily meals. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade, but shelter for birds and wildlife. Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed whether you are inside or outside the house.
4. Garden to learn.
Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves provide the opportunity to find out the cause and understand how to keep plants healthy. Moving to a new house may mean leaving favorite plants but also provides the opportunity to discover new plants and growing conditions. There are a variety of ways to increase gardening know-how such as seminars, Master Gardener programs, vo-tech courses and formal degree programs at a college or university.
5. Garden to make money.
For some people gardening is a lifelong hobby. For others, the love of plants can lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center, a large global company, or even owning their own business. A garden can be a source of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and other crops that can be sold at local farmer’s markets and roadside stands. And whether you live in your dream home or plan on moving soon, gardening adds value to your property. Real estate agents estimate that attractive landscaping increases a home’s value by as much as 15%. It also creates interest in the house and can mean the difference between a potential buyer simply driving by or stopping to take a closer look.
6. Garden to meet people.
Gardening is a great way to expand your social circle. Whether it’s with someone who lives down the street or halfway around the world on the Internet, gardeners love to talk about plants. Surplus tomatoes, a bouquet of flowers, or an extra plant, are gifts to be shared with friends and neighbors. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs, plant organizations, and gardening websites is an easy way to share information, ask questions and get involved.
7. Garden to be creative.
Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden’s design can reflect a personal sense of style such as a romantic cottage garden or a peaceful Japanese garden, as well as provide a showcase for art and sculpture. Like to try something new? With the wide variety of seeds and plants available in garden centers, it’s easy to experiment with new plants or change a garden’s color scheme every year.
8. Garden to win.
For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off their skills. Garden clubs regularly have shows that highlight the best flowers grown by local gardeners. County and state fairs provide an opportunity to show everyone the giant pumpkin, beautiful beans or luscious tomatoes harvested from the garden. Competitive gardening is not only fun and interesting, there can even be national recognition and financial rewards.
9. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections.
Gardens play an important part in our well being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success, while neighbors and visitors often express their appreciation of those efforts.
On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food for your table. Tending a garden also contributes to improving your own living space, the environment and our planet.
10. Garden for lasting memories.
Yards that once grew gardens have been replaced with hot tubs and driveways. Today’s kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, even if the garden is a single container or small spot in the yard. And a garden provides a beautiful way to remember a special person or time of life.
The National Garden Bureau encourages you to discover your own reason to become a gardener. And forget that excuse about not having enough time. Gardening takes less time than that new television show and is much easier than getting a new video game to work on your computer. Whatever reason appeals to you, gardening is a satisfying activity that provides a lifetime of benefits.
We credit Janis Kieft as the author of this article.
Photos from the collection of Neil Moran