Why do we do it—garden—when it makes us sweaty, sore, and often cranky? By the end of the harvest season, our faces are red from cooking tomatoes and putting up food either into the pantry or the freezer. Our hands are calloused and nails dirty. And yet…and yet…when it’s all said and done and autumn winds chill the night air, what we’re left with, besides a stocked-up pantry, is a deep feeling of strength and satisfaction. It’s true. With gardening, we harvest more than food and flowers; we harvest health and healing.
It starts with the health that comes just from physical activity: Gardening is proven to be great exercise. And that, I think, comes from our stubbornness; gardeners want to have things a certain way, so we find superhuman strength to move plants, rocks, logs, or whatever else it takes to make our gardens just right. All that weight lifting, bending, and stretching, while leaving us sore the next day, also builds good bone strength and muscles—especially as we age. I bet there are few gardeners who have insufficient vitamin D thanks to gardening in the sun (and occasional rainfall)!
Another health bonus is also the healing power of the food and flowers we grow—whether it’s bouquets that bring stress relief and feelings of joy or the super-nutrient-rich foods we cook, eat, freeze, dry, and can fresh from the vines. There’s a powerful feeling of security and safety seeing my bags of berries, green beans, and savoy cabbage and jars of tomato sauce and pesto lined up in my freezer.