There is something so satisfying in enjoying the fruits of your own labor. Planting a seed, watching it grow and then harvesting it when it’s ready brings a feeling of accomplishment and delight that is one-of-a-kind.
1. Good for the Mind and Body
The benefits of growing your own go beyond the happiness of a harvest and can actually improve both mental and physical health. Good for both the mind and body, home gardening is the beginning of a lifetime of positive effects.
It has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety while also providing an opportunity for daily exercise.
Using muscles for digging, pulling weeds and carrying bags of soil and mulch can be a full-body workout. According to studies by The National Institutes of Health, findings support that gardening boasts health benefits that include lowering body mass index (BMI), along with social, physical, and psychological health.
2. Gardening Grows Knowledge and Wellness
Lori Johnson is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with UF/IFAS Extension in Lake County. She is a Registered Dietician and has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to working in public health, community and school nutrition.
“I look forward to helping the community grow deeper in their knowledge in nutrition and overall wellness,” she said. “Developing a healthy lifestyle is key to preventing and/or managing chronic diseases.”
“Gardening supports reduced feelings of depression and stress, increased energy levels, improved sleep and better cognitive function – all contributing to overall wellness,” Johnson stated.
An avid garden gal herself, Johnson enjoys backyard gardening for more than just
the delicious and healthy food it provides. “It gives me time to spend with my husband, a chance in our busy lives to have great conversation and enjoy each other’s company,” she said.
3. A Year-Round Hobby
Summertime is the perfect opportunity to start preparing for a garden in the fall. “One of the most important things in gardening is to know your season,” said Brooke Moffis, Commercial Horticulture and Florida Friendly Landscaping Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Lake County.
Moffis has worked with UF/IFAS Extension in Lake County for 14 years. She previously served as a Master Gardener Program Coordinator and worked for the Living with the Land Exhibit in Walt Disney World’s Epcot theme park.
“The garden doesn’t take a break,” she said. “Winter is busiest, summer is slightly less productive and a great time to prepare for fall, while ornamentals are year round, (trees, shrubs, sub-tropical, annuals and perennials).”
Moffis mentioned that if you got a late start on a spring garden, there are some things you can still plant this summer. “Sweet potatoes and okra will do well in the heat, or, you can spend some time really getting your garden ready to plant in the fall,” Moffis said.
She explained that summertime gardening in Florida is limited due to heat, humidity and pest pressure. “Start selecting seeds, think about what goes where and start composting to a specific area,” she recommended. “Build raised beds and get soil ready, a lot of effort and energy goes into preparing.”
4. Fun for the Whole Family
Gardening is a great family project that provides an opportunity for everyone to pitch in. “For vegetable gardens, families can observe and learn about how food grows from a tiny seed through the time it’s picked to harvest,” Johnson said. “They can then gather, trying new recipes, and cook together as a family.”
The health benefits that derive from growing your own food are immeasurable. “Growing your own foods keeps foods fresh and in their natural state,” Johnson mentioned. “Foods that are packaged and processed can include more salt, fats and added sugars. Fresh vegetables and fruits are low in calories and contain vitamins and minerals that have a variety of health benefits.
For example, peppers are high in vitamin C which can boost the health of your immune system. Okra contains potassium which can help maintain healthy blood pressure and contributes to bone health too. Eating the skin on many fruits and veggies contain fiber, which may reduce your risk for heart disease,” she said.
For more information and resources in home gardening projects, contact your local County UF/IFAS Extension Office.