Why Garden? A question that I get in many forms. I usually try to follow these types of questions with a question; “Why not?” That usually results in a strange face or a flippant comeback. I like that as it is an opening to make people think by pushing them for an answer
The answers generally fall into three categories.
“I don’t have the space.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“I kill everything I plant or buy.”
These all sound like legitimate excuses not to garden. On the other hand, they can also be blanket statements to cover what I believe is the real reason people don’t garden.
“They don’t want to do the work.”
It’s true. I am not saying its not a good reason. I am just saying it is the underlying reason, even if they won’t admit it. And the reason this excuse works for them is that they don’t or won’t admit that they have no idea of why it is important in this age of cheap, plentiful food anyone should be concerned with gardening.
Most people who don’t garden are unaware of the reality of nutritional deficiencies in most mass-produced food crops grown in the US. Research has uncovered a disturbing trend in the fresh produce that is on the shelves in grocery stores across the US.
The Underlying Problem
A study done at the University of Texas and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that data collected by the USDA shows a reliable decline in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past 50 years. The researchers lay the cause of these declines to soil deficiencies. These soil deficiencies are the result of the rise of industrial, agricultural practices. (Donald Davis, 2004)
The nutrition value of food is declining Topsoil in the US and around the world is being depleted and lost at alarming rates. Growing amounts of research correlate the rise in chronic systemic disease to diet and food content. There shouldn’t be any question about why people must become more involved in producing the food they eat. Eating from a garden that produces nutrient-dense clean food even once a week is an improvement.
Immediate Health Benefits
Many people experience a host of almost immediate benefits from beginning to garden, even on a small scale. Numerous studies have shown the mental and physical positive results from tending small gardens.
The Center for Disease Control research shows that spending as little as two and one-half hours working in a small hobby garden can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death. The CDC considers gardening a moderate-intensity level activity and can help you to achieve that 2.5-hour goal each week. (Center for Disease Control, n.d.)
Gardening is a known stress reliever. Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology reported in a study that compared gardening vs. reading as a stress-relieving activity that those assigned to gardening, experience a higher level of stress relief than those assigned to reading activities. (Agnes E Van Den Berg, 2010)
The Take-Home Message
For me, the benefits far outweigh the easy to use excuses. What is your health worth? In the case of a bit of hobby gardening or landscaping, a few minutes taken from other activities can begin to pay immediate and noticeable benefits. My advice is to toss that smartphone onto the kitchen counter of a couple of hours a week and get outside in the garden. I think you will begin to notice the changes, and, in the long run, you are not only helping yourself, but you are helping the entire ecosystem that surrounds you.
Agnes E Van Den Berg, e. a. (2010). Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress. Journal of Health Psychology.
Center for Disease Control. (n.d.). Health Equity – Garden Tips. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/family/gardening/
Donald Davis, e. a. (2004). Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
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