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The Importance of Gardening During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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We live in unprecedented times, with new and emerging challenges requiring innovative and forward-thinking solutions. The emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world have re-shaped our very way of life, impacting virtually every aspect of day to day living.

From lost jobs, and shortages of food and cleaning supplies, to social unrest and fear of the unknown, COVID-19 has taken its toll. Yet, it’s during the most trying of times when people come together as a community, working towards common goals and finding ways to take care of themselves and others.

Although considered a pastime or hobby by most, at home gardening as experienced an impressive resurgence in popularity, with more people turning to vegetable gardening as a means to occupy time, ease concerns over potential food shortages, and live a healthier lifestyle.

Through the use of a reliable global weather forecast, aspiring gardeners can now easily plan and prepare their crops, providing key insights into seasonal weather patterns and real-time date information on weather conditions that may impact growth cycles.

Psychological benefits of gardening 

Although the physical health of the nation is largely dependent on adhering to safe practices such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, with efforts largely aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, these practices come at a cost.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), social distancing is directly associated with a higher incidence of:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Boredom

Research has demonstrated that spending time outdoors is not only good for our bodies but also our minds.

  • Mood booster.  In a survey conducted by San Francisco area hospitals, 79% of patients felt an increased sense of calm and relaxation after having spent time outdoors in a garden. Another 19% reported feeling more upbeat and positive with their outlook, with an additional 25% citing that they felt stronger and refreshed. Another study, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, found a correlation with improved mood, more frequent feeling of happiness, and a sense of soothing in the presence of flowers. It turns out that both visual and physical stimuli of working or being in or around a garden increases feel-good chemicals in our brains (such as dopamine and serotonin), improving our mood and mental health.
  • Reduce anxiety and stress. If there is one thing that we can all agree on, its that COVID-19, and its downstream impact on our lives, has everyone stressed out and anxious.  In a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, participants working on tasks involving plants reported feeling more relaxed and comfortable than those working on administrative and computer tasks. Yet another study found in the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening resulted in a significant decrease in stress and cortisol (stress hormone), with participants subjectively noting an improved mood and positive outlook afterwards. 

Physical benefits of gardening 

  • Enhanced air quality. Plants, both indoor and outdoor, are natural air purifiers, taking air pollution and carbon dioxide in and releasing oxygen in return. This can aid in improving overall health and well-being while reducing exposure to harsh and dangerous toxins.
  • Exercise in the garden does a body good. Around 80% of adults in the United States fail to be sufficiently active in their day-to-day lives, leading to an increased risk of both physical and mental conditions ranging from high blood pressure and heart disease to obesity, cancer, and depression.Gardening is not only a fun pastime or hobby but its also a means to be more active and enjoy all of the benefits that come with it. Keep in mind that regular exercise is key. Plan your days ahead of time and set up a schedule. Know the weather today so you can fit in your gardening time around rain or storms.

Exercise has been shown to:

  • Improve immune function 
  • Reduce stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Improve mood
  • Ward off a myriad of chronic ailments and conditions
  • Stave off obesity
  • Increase mobility
  • Get better sleep
  • Decrease the risk of injury
  • Help you live longer
  • And more…

A Harvard Medical School study found that just half an hour of gardening activities can burn 135 calories or more while helping to develop motor skills and overall strength. If there is one thing no one wants to do amid the pandemic, it visits the hospital. Fresh air and regular exercise can help make sure you stay safe, healthy, and happy.

Encourages and promotes healthy eating habits

Our lives are busier than ever before, making it difficult to plan, prepare, and eat healthily. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 10 American adults get enough vegetables and fruit in their diet.

Gardening is a fun and rewarding experience for both children and adults to participate in. Those who grow gardens tend to take pride in their crop, having cultivated and cared for it from seed to kitchen table. 

For example, one study from Saint Louis University showed that gardening creates a ‘positive food environment’ and that those children who are fed homegrown food are two times more likely to eat up to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Not only that, but home-grown veggies also tend to taste better too, leading to increased consumption.

Put less reliance on grocery stores

COVID-19 not only did a number on our economy, but it also disrupted supply chains and food production worldwide. This led (and continues to lead) to shortages of certain food items. Producing your own crops is a way to not only ensure that you and your family are well-fed, but it can also help reduce the strain put on our food supply chain so that others have access to what they need. However, you’ll need to put in the work and coordinate gardening activities (such as watering) around weather patterns to maximise production. Sites like Worldwide Weather Online can help you forecast in advance, so you’ll know just what Mother Nature has in store for you ahead of time.

Saves money 

Gardening can help your wallet too. With a little planning and hard work, you can efficiently grow a wide range of produce to feed you, your family, and even your local community members.

Final thoughts 

With concerns about food supply, exposure to COVID, and increased awareness of the need to eat healthily, more individuals are turning to gardening.

No matter your level of experience, a little research, planning, and dedication are all that is needed to take part in this growing trend. Whether you have an entire plot of land or just a few window boxes, you too can experience the joy, pride, and health benefits of growing your own food. And you’ll likely feel better too. 

Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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