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The Journal magazines are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Dec 03, 2021

Planting Your Way to a Healthier You

By Lori Draz 

One of the fastest-growing pastimes is gardening. In the past two years, the number of gardens has exploded, and garden clubs everywhere have been busy helping junior gardeners get started, while welcoming many new members. The Garden Club of America’s president, Debbie Oliver, noted that even the World Health Organization considers gardening imperative for a healthy, green recovery from COVID-19. Nature, after all, is the source of human health that should be preserved. 

Not only does gardening make your living space beautiful, it has a lot of health benefits too. If the gym is not your thing, try some yard “workouts.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that men and women who participated in a community gardening program had significantly lower BMIs. Gardening is considered a moderate-intensity exercise. An hour of light yard work can burn about 330 calories, which is more than walking. Lifting those bags of mulch and watering cans helps build strength and stamina. Gardening has also been shown to lower blood pressure, and those hours spent in the sunshine increases your reserves of essential vitamin D, which is good for many things, including lowering inflammation, improving heart health and building stronger bones since vitamin D allows your body to better absorb calcium. 

Inside, at the kitchen table, you’ll see those homegrown vegetables encourage healthier eating too. Fresh vegetables also build a love of healthier eating in children. 

Phone ringing off the hook? Stress relief is right outside. Turn off the electronic interruptions and let the sounds of nature fill your head. Gardening has been shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Some say it is also helpful for overcoming grief and in the rehabilitation of injuries, surgeries, Alzheimer’s, strokes and other medical conditions. Many health and assisted living facilities include agricultural therapy programs to help patients’ mental and physical health.

According to the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, some experts say the fresh air can help students become more focused and achieve higher test scores.

Much like owning a pet, gardening builds a sense of responsibility, self-esteem and increases confidence. It is also a great way to teach those same values to children and instill a sense of pride and excitement over something other than social media.

The calming effects of gardening are even being used in prisons all around the country from the Eastern Correctional Facility in Maryland to Rikers Island and San Quentin. Raising fruits and vegetables has a deep spiritual impact on the convicts, helping them change aggressive behaviors and mentality, which is a key part of rehabilitation. There is also a great benefit to tax payers as these farming projects produce close to 100 tons of fresh produce that goes right back into the prisons, reducing costs and providing a healthier diet for the inmates. 

Another exciting outgrowth are community gardens. Residents come together to create beautiful spaces that produce a variety of produce that is frequently donated to food banks, senior and veterans’ organizations. They are a great option for people like apartment dwellers who don’t have a space of their own to garden. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can still participate because, as experienced gardeners will tell you, there is always something to do in the garden. 

Gardens also serve as a safe haven for beneficial insects and honeybees. They provide an essential food source for wintering animals as well as nesting materials in the cold weather. 

Last but not least, gardening is healthy for the environment, and it can dramatically improve the value of your property along with giving you a deep sense tranquility and a place to reflect. Each day there is something new and magical to see, so roll up your sleeves and grow a brighter and healthier life in 2022.  

If you would learn more and make some new friends, there are many garden clubs in the area who would just love to have you attend a meeting or join. Contact information for various local clubs is listed below. 

  • Garden Club of Fair Haven – email Leonora Davidson at lzilincar@aol.com
  • Garden Club R.F.D. – email Ruth Korn at ruthkorn77@gmail.com
  • Rumson Garden Club – email Kathryne Singleton at Rumsongardenclubnj@gmail.com
  • Shrewsbury Garden Club – email shrewsburygardenclub@gmail.com