Gardening, a weekend hobby back in the “old normal,” is now a rising trend during the COVID-19 pandemic and for all the good reasons. Whether in the suburb, countryside, or the city, local nurseries have seen a spike in plant and seed sales as more people are answering the call of the land to grow their own food.
History has also shown us that gardening has always helped us bounce back during tough times. After World War I and II, victory gardens—also called “war gardens” or “food gardens for defense”—started to sprout around the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany to boost civil morale and contribute to public food supply through planting. This is no different from what we are experiencing now, and the rising numbers of pandemic gardeners show that we always dig deep in times of crisis.
So as gardening makes its way to households across the world, should you grow your own food too? The answer is yes, and here are 10 reasons why.
Better and healthier eating
Shop-bought vegetables are harvested before they ripen and travel for miles before ending up on our plates. Vegetables lose their freshness the moment they’re plucked, which means they’re not to their fullest when we eat them.
Studies show that local fresh produce has 100 percent more vitamins and antioxidants than imported ones. So if our harvest only travels from the backyard to the kitchen, we can be sure that what we’re eating is packed with good nutrients.
Big savings on food
Food is a precious commodity for all of us, and reports show that it has become one of the biggest expenses in any household. In the U.S. alone, food expense tops 10% of the typical household income while an average Canadian family is projected to pay $500 more on food this year—and these are not isolated cases.
Climate change threatening the world food supply has been a continuing global concern for years. As exploitation of natural resources and emission of greenhouse gases continue to rise, so will food costs.
The good news is, in our own simple way, we can help curb this concern through gardening. Practicing responsible planting, growing the right crops per season, planning meals, and preserving excess produce can help reduce food spending while helping our planet heal little by little.
Eases food anxiety and increases self-sufficiency
At the start of the pandemic, people started panic buying that led to shortages. And as COVID-19 disrupts our food supply chains and stores struggle to keep their shelves filled, our dependency on grocery stores slowly cracks. As a result, people are called to rise to the moment by finding better ways of sustaining themselves, one of which is starting a vegetable garden.
Just like the post-war victory gardens, humanity’s instinct is to survive and gardening is one of the solutions to always keep us afloat.
So try sowing a seed or two, share your produce and gardening know-how with your neighbors, and help your community survive.
Promotes green habits
Spending most of our time at home during the pandemic opens up new opportunities to learn about environment-friendly living.
The FIU Institute of Environment recommends gardening as a great start to practice green habits at home. Planting seeds from vegetable scraps, composting, using grow bags, or recycling one-time use containers as pots—these small habits, when practiced regularly, can contribute to a greener, waste-free future.
Teaches failure and hard work
Every good thing requires hard work, and that’s true when it comes to growing a vegetable garden. Creating a good garden takes time, trial and error, and a lot of patience. It pushes you to constantly grow and learn because as seasons change, so do crops and practices.
Gardening hardens us to weather any storms and teaches us values that we can apply in our lives. As the great writer May Sarton says, “A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.”
Sharpens the mind
Gardening is not just a physical activity, it’s a brain exercise too! A study reveals that physical activities like gardening can improve brain volume and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia by 50 percent.
Another study also shows that people-plant interaction is an effective preventive treatment among elderly dementia patients. It also promotes well-being, enhances life satisfaction, and reduces loneliness.
Good for the heart
As we grow old, we are more prone to a sedentary lifestyle. Prolonged sitting in the office or at home decreases our metabolic rate and can have adverse effects on our cardiovascular health.
Gardening as physical routine activity can combat this. Studies show that horticulture, especially among 60-year-olds, can cut the risk of a stroke/heart attack by 30 percent. Also, eating fresh vegetables gives you more nutrients to keep your heart in tip-top shape.
The pandemic did not just keep us from the outside world, it also prevented us from having a good night’s sleep. From weird dreams, insomnia, to late bedtimes, sleep habits during the pandemic changed a lot due to intensified levels of anxiety and depression.
Gardening helps alleviate insomnia by lowering blood pressure, increasing nocturnal sleeping time, decreasing stress levels, reducing anxiety, and providing exercise to build sleep drive.
Satisfies hunger for real connection
In this time where we are forced to distance ourselves from others and connections are made only through screens rather than physical touch, we starve for something real.
What we are craving right now is not just food for the body but the soul, too. We are hungry to connect with a living thing and gardening—getting our hands dirty, watering plants, and seeing vegetables grow before our eyes—does the trick.
Harvests happy hormones
There’s pure joy in sinking our hands in the dirt and harvesting our vegetables. Studies show that gardening releases happy hormones in our brains, making it the perfect mood booster.
Researchers found out that there’s a friendly bacteria in soil that works similarly to antidepressants. So when we get our hands dirty, our serotonin levels increase. When we harvest our garden produce, our brain also releases dopamine.
As we grow older, we push ourselves to work harder without taking breaks. We forget to remember what brings us deep nurturing happiness—family, nature, and life’s simple pleasures.
So let gardening take you back to your core. Start a vegetable garden with your loved ones. Play in the dirt together and make it a fun family activity while teaching your kids or grandkids valuable life lessons.
Now is the time to connect with nature and the people dear to you. Now is the time to dig deep and start a vegetable garden.