It may seem like a rustic daydream to walk out to a sun-soaked garden and walk back inside with a basket brimming over with carrots, tomatoes, herbs and berries. Many of us are used to food simply appearing, but the truth is, growing your own food takes time and work.

The return on this investment, though, happens once you begin to harvest the fruits of your labor. You can expect to see a ripple effect of benefits on your health, eating habits and environment.

Health Benefits of Gardening

There are as many health benefits to gardening as there are varieties of tomatoes. Spending time outdoors, including gardening, has undisputed health benefits including:

Growing your own food promotes healthier eating. With more fresh fruits and veggies around, you are more likely to choose fresh over processed. Harvest time also encourages you to find new recipes and ways to preserve your produce to last into the winter.

There is evidence that homegrown foods contain more nutrition than those purchased from a store, potentially because store-bought veggies are picked before they are ripe.

You get to decide what (if any) chemicals are used on your food. This gives you the control to determine how to care for the food that will go into your body.

Homegrown foods reduce the need for transportation time, cost and environmental impact.

Gardening is good exercise. The act of tending your plants provides cardiovascular exercise, helps flexibility and builds muscles. Physical activity also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the body.

Creating your own sustenance makes you more self-sufficient, leading to an increase in self-confidence and personal satisfaction.

Many people find and foster their spiritual selves through being in nature. Working the soil, tending plants and watching nature do her thing helps you connect with the rhythms of the natural world.

Gardening can be meditative or a sort of therapy and is especially helpful for mental or emotional health. Your garden might serve as your oasis, or a peaceful place, free from stress.

Growing your own food helps you appreciate the process of farming and promotes a safer food supply.

Plants are beautiful and gardens, especially in urban areas, help preserve green space. Gardens can help reduce runoff, clean the air and lead to economic opportunities.

The tangible and intangible benefits of growing your own food will vary from person to person as everyone has their own goals and intentions. You may well be surprised how it effects more areas than you targeted.

You decide the size and varieties of fruits and vegetables included in your garden.

Economic Benefits of Gardening

The economic benefit of gardening depends on a bunch of factors, particularly your costs. When first starting out, you might not see much of a savings, but that will eventually even out. Other factors include what kinds of plants you grow and how much yield you produce. Growing foods that are particularly expensive to buy will increase your savings. To maximize the economic benefits of growing your own food, aim to limit costs and maximize yield.

Buying food in the grocery store is different than growing your own. The stuff you buy has extra costs factored in, including growing, watering, fertilizing, treating pests, harvesting, transporting, handling and of course, mark-up. If you eliminate the middle-man and store profits, it’s really quite inexpensive to grow your own food. Growing your own food also allows you more diversity than stores can. From heirloom tomatoes to hard-to-find squash, gardening gives you so many more options than any store could, and for much cheaper.

If planned properly, growing your own food can lead to savings not just during the harvest. Doing spring and fall plantings of certain crops and staggered plantings can help prolong or break up the amount of produce you have at one given time. Canning, freezing or storing root veggies in a cellar can make your savings and yield last well into the winter.

Regardless of your reasons and ambitions, growing your own food can have considerable impacts on many areas of your life.

From heirloom tomatoes to hard-to-find squash, gardening gives you so many more options than any store could, and for much cheaper.


By Torrey Kim

Get the best bang for your buck by planting the following seeds, which produce the highest number of pounds per four-by-eight-foot plot, according to the book Solar Gardening by Leandre Poisson and Gretchen Vogel Poisson:

Leeks 60
Tomatillos 56
Daikon radish, parsnips, and cylindrical beets 50
Swede 48
Collards and sweet potatoes 45
Tomatoes 42
Summer squash 40
Salsify 37
Carrots, zucchini, Jerusalem artichokes and mustard greens 35
Spring onions 32
Source: Solar Gardening by Leandre Poisson and Gretchen Vogel Poisson, available at amazon.com.


For the simplest way to figure out just how economically beneficial your garden is, you will need to track and quantify your yield and deduct your costs.

  1. Track your yields, both in units and weight (this will be tedious but is necessary to get actual figures)
  2. Track your costs, including everything from seeds and soil to fertilizers and greenhouses. How far you take this is up to you, either just using tangible, direct expenses or incorporating time, effort, water usage, etc.
  3. Determine the value of your produce. Visit your local grocery store and write down what they charge for similar products. If you’re growing organically, use the organic produce price. If the store doesn’t have an item, find something close or ask the produce manager what you could expect to pay for it. Try to use figures from the time of year when that item is in season versus off-season, which will be more expensive.
  4. Once you have all your values, take the approximate value of your yield and subtract your expenses.


Gardening as an Educational and Therapeutic Tool

Gardening’s health benefits are so conclusive that it is now being incorporated into schools, hospitals and formal therapy programs.

Schools are using gardens to teach kids about growing food, from the perspectives of eating healthier but also teaching about responsibility and the natural world. Many farm-to-school programs use gardens to grow fruits and vegetables for school lunches.

Hospitals have developed gardens as healing environments for patients and their families. Staff are encouraged to spend time in the gardens and food grown helps make the cafeteria food more healthy.

Rehabilitation and therapy programs are incorporating gardens as ways to promote peace, reduce stress and serve as a creative and physical outlet. Even in those with physical limitations, gardening is a way to feel self-sufficient, increase range of motion and spend time outdoors. Eco-therapy is a relatively new discipline using outdoor activities, including gardening, to assist with mental health care and other therapies.


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