May 14, 2020
People who miss the pleasure of having dinner at a nice restaurant may find that gardening provides a similar level of emotional satisfaction.
Researchers at the Princeton Environmental Institute found that people who gardened at home experienced a comparable level of happiness as those who dined out, took a walk or rode their bike.
It's no secret that outdoor spaces like parks and trails increase wellbeing. But very little research has explored the effects of gardening.
The study surveyed 370 participants about 15 activities ranging from work to leisure activities. Gardening ranked fourth in regard to the happiness it provides. But it also was the second-most meaningful activity, a ranking that could be buoyed by its sustenance.
“The high levels of meaningfulness that respondents reported while gardening might be associated with producing one’s own food,” researcher Graham Ambrose said. “The boost to emotional wellbeing is comparable to other leisure activities that currently get the lion’s share of infrastructure investment. These findings suggest that, when choosing future wellbeing projects to fund, we should pay just as much attention to household gardening.”
The benefits of gardening rang true regardless of whether people lived in the suburbs or the city, and there was no difference between people who gardened alone and those who did so with others.
Women and people with low income levels experienced greater satisfaction than men and people with high incomes. Additionally, people who tended to a vegetable garden experienced a greater sense of emotional wellbeing those who kept ornamental gardens.
City residents may find it hard to garden, particularly if they lack a backyard. But there are still ways to reap the benefits.
Anyone with outdoor space can try growing tomatoes, eggplants, spinach, peppers or beans in large containers or pots. And plenty of herbs can be grown indoors if they are tended to properly, including basil, rosemary, mint and thyme. Several herbs, like parsley chives and lemongrass, even grow in partial light.
People with limited space can try adding a few herbs to the same pot. For instance, basil and parsley grow well together. Thyme, rosemary and sage also work well together. Just watch out for mint varieties, including lemon balm. Mints tend to be invasive and need a separate pot from other plants.
People new to gardening might want to start with a single plant. Most herbs are fairly easy to maintain, but chives are particularly easy.
People can call a local garden center for suggestions, too. Though some places may be closed during the coronavirus shutdown, Greensgrow Farms in Olde Richmond is still open for online purchases and curbside pick-up. They have a large selection of herbs and vegetables available.