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Did you know that spending time digging and handling soil is actually healthy for you? You probably never considered that, but it’s true. Aside from the significant calorie burn that comes with digging, handling soil has a few benefits you probably never knew about.
When researchers injected mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, the bacteria commonly found in dirt, they found that their immune systems responded by triggering the release of the “feel-good neurotransmitter” serotonin, making dirt similar to an antidepressant. Additional research suggests that exposure this bacteria may improve cognitive function as well as learning skills.
Gardening is said to have other important health benefits as well. Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, revealed that gardening works to decrease the severity of a myriad of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Her research suggests that when we garden, we enter a quiet mental state known as “effortless attention,” which acts as a sort of “healing power.” She’s even conducted a study that correlated an improvement in ADD/ADHD with time spent gardening or in nature.
And if a little mental health improvement doesn’t have you excited about heading outside to garden, how about some physical health improvements? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gardening is a perfect way to get in healthy physical condition. When healthy, you’re cutting your risk for some major health complications, including heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and stroke.
Now that you understand the benefits you can reap by getting outdoors for a little gardening, let’s look at some projects you can do.
Plant a Tree
According to the Arbor Day Foundation, trees have a lot of benefits, like increasing the value of your home and reducing your air conditioning bill. If you’re interested in planting a tree on your property, follow these simple steps.
Dig a hole two to three times the size of your tree’s root ball.
- Place the tree in the hole and move it around until it’s facing the direction you want it.
- While having someone hold the tree in place, carefully backfill the hole with loose soil.
- Stake the tree by tying a wooden or metal stake loosely to the tree. If your tree is larger, it may require multiple stakes.
- Water the tree, and not just the first day after you plant it. A newly planted tree will require water regularly for several weeks post planting.
Plant an Herb Garden
The thought of planting a full-size vegetable garden and the necessary maintenance may be a bit too much for those new to gardening. So, if you’re wanting to plant something you can use, but with a little less work, plant an herb garden. Follow these simple steps.
Find a sunny spot with good soil.
- Take time to amend the soil where you’ll be planting.
- Select seeds or starter plants for your favorite herbs, like basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano, dill, or mint.
- Don’t be afraid to harvest the plant frequently, or take clippings to use, as this will actually benefit the plant’s growth.
Plant an All-Season Flower Garden
If a beautiful bed of flowers is more your thing, you can forgo a vegetable and herb garden to enjoy a beautiful blooming garden. Making sure you have a garden that has a bloomer in all seasons can be tricky, so be sure to do research before laying out your flower bed.
Beautifying your surroundings with fresh new plants is a great way to get physically fit and mentally healthy, so head out back and get started. Look around for some open wide spaces where you can add vegetables, a tree, herbs, or some flowers. And if you don’t have space on your property, you can still garden. Use the American Community Gardening Association’s locator tool and find a community garden where you can get started. You won’t just be cultivating your passion for gardening, you’ll be building a wonderful new group of friends.
About the Author
Nora Hood is a freelance writer and creator of ThreeDaily.org. She considers domestic violence to be a form of domestic terrorism. She became a passionate advocate for ending domestic violence when she began volunteering at a women’s shelter while in college. She has continued her volunteer work over the years and recently started ThreeDaily.org to raise awareness about the issue while also creating a nationwide activist network of individuals who want to bring an end to domestic violence. The site fosters a community for those seeking information about, writing about, and speaking out about domestic violence.
An excellent video underlining the many physical and mental benefits of gardening!!