27 Benefits of Gardening Backed by Science

In this guide, I’ll take you through 27 proven benefits of gardening backed by leading research studies worldwide. Gardening offers various benefits to the body, mind, and emotions. It’s also great for the environment. So, whether you have a seasoned green thumb or a black thumb in training, taking the time and investing the space to cultivate your own garden is well worth the effort.

Proven Benefits of Gardening

1. Gardening Connects You to Nature

If you have ever gone outside on a beautiful day for a walk around the park, taken a deep breath, and felt happier or more at ease thanks to the nice weather, fresh air, the sound of birds chirping, and the feeling of the sunshine on your face, then you know what it’s like to be connected to nature. Gardening can help you capture this wonderful feeling all of the time.

In fact, connecting to nature can improve one’s feelings, behaviors, and attitudes toward nature, as well. Research has suggested that individuals who feel connected to nature are more likely to interact with it in positive, beneficial ways. So, it follows that the more people who are connected to nature, the healthier our environment will be.

2. Ecotherapy Is Good for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Ecotherapy is a type of therapy that uses outdoor, nature-centered activities, like gardening, to improve overall mental health. Gardening has been shown to promote emotional well-being

In another study that looked specifically at psychiatric patients, gardening was shown to help reduce anxiety, improve mood, increase the participants’ sense of belonging, and improve their understanding of their own mental health.

3. Creates Communities, Friendships, and New Connections

A person tending to lush garden plants

Loneliness or isolation can take a significant toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. If you find yourself longing for human connection and social interaction, renting a garden plot in your city or volunteering at a community garden can be a fantastic way to meet new people, cultivate new friendships, and become a more active member of your community in a very positive, productive way.

4. Can Improve Your Sensory Awareness

While all forms of nature can help to awaken your senses, a sensory garden is cultivated for this specific purpose. When designing a sensory garden, keep all five senses in mind:

  1. Sight – Pay careful attention to color and shapes.
  2. Sound – Grow plants, like tall grasses, that make interesting noises in the wind. Consider adding chimes or a fountain, too.
  3. Smell – Selecting plants that produce fragrant flowers helps you become more aware of smells in the garden.
  4. Touch – Choose plants with various textures that are safe to touch, such as fuzzy vs. waxy leaves.
  5. Taste – Planting an edible garden or a section of your garden that is edible with herbs, fruits, and vegetables will help awaken your taste sense, too.

5. Can Help You Sleep Better

Gardening has been shown to help improve sleep. While the exact reason is not entirely understood, the improved quality of sleep seems to be connected to the increased physical activity that gardening requires, in addition to the exposure to natural light during the daytime hours that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.

6. Good Exercise, Burns Calories, Builds Strength, and Decreases Osteoporosis

A person planting in a flower bed in a garden

Gardening isn’t just good exercise; it’s great exercise. Gardening offers all three different types of exercise and all of their benefits. When gardening, you can get aerobic/endurance exercise, build strength, and increase flexibility.

As a result, you’ll burn calories (about 200 to 400 per hour of pulling weeds, digging, and planting seeds), improve your heart health, grow stronger, and be less susceptible to injury. Gardening can even increase your bone mass, helping to combat chronic conditions like osteoporosis.

7. Lowers Stress and Blood Pressure

In studies, simply spending a few minutes looking at pictures of nature and natural landscapes has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. Actually spending time in nature, looking at the real thing, – whether gardening for health or enjoying another outdoor activity – can do the same.

8. Can Help Reduce the Risk of Stroke

Studies have shown that living a sedentary lifestyle, where you spend most (or a significant portion) of your time sitting, is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and can even increase your risk of death as a result of heart disease.

Gardening with its calory-burning and aerobic benefits is a great way to increase daily activity and keep your heart healthy. In fact, one study showed that, for people over 60, simply staying active with daily activities, like gardening and housework, was enough activity to reduce the risk of heart disease by about 30%.

Although gardening is generally good for heart health, individuals who have cardiovascular disease should take care not to do too much too quickly. More vigorous gardening and yardwork like digging up dirt, raking heavy leaves, shoveling snow, or any other activities requiring more significant physical exertion can actually trigger a heart attack – and the risk is even higher in cold weather.

So, be sure to talk with your doctor before taking on any new physical activities, start gardening slowly, and gradually get your heart back into shape, taking one step at a time.

9. Can Save You Money

Growing your own herbs, veggies, and fruits could help you save money on groceries. If you’re growing your own lettuce and cabbages, then there’s no need to purchase those expensive bags of pre-washed greens at the store.

However, gardening isn’t always a fail-safe, cost-effective, money-saving strategy because it costs money to get started and maintain your garden. Gardening costs can vary depending on what kind of supplies you need to get started. You might need to purchase things like tools, seeds and plants, soil, water, structural elements, and fertilizer.

Whether you save or not will depend on how much you need to spend upfront, the cost of water in your community, and how long your growing season lasts.

10. Gardening Is Good for Memory

Whether you’re concerned about age-related cognitive decline or simply wish to improve your memory and overall cognitive function, adding gardening to your lifestyle can help improve your brain health.

One study that measured brain nerve growth factors in participants before and after gardening found that various gardening activities increased the participants’ levels. This suggests that gardening could improve overall cognitive function (including memory) by increasing cell proliferation and growth.

11. Gardening Is Therapeutic

A person taking young plant pots from a tray in a garden

The term therapeutic is the adjective form of the noun therapy that refers to the treatment of a disease. So, to be therapeutic means to be related to the treatment of a disease or condition.

Gardening offers a variety of therapeutic benefits to those who spend time in the dirt, growing green things. It not only has therapeutic health benefits, such as those associated with increased exercise, but it also helps promote better mental and emotional health.

For example, gardening creates a sense of responsibility and purpose, it allows us to satisfy the instinct to nurture, it helps us relax by releasing feel-good endorphins, it connects us to other living things, and gardening can help us channel and positively release negative energy. (Imagine releasing feelings of anger or frustration while whacking away at weeds.)

When gardening specifically for therapeutic benefits, the practice is called “horticultural therapy,” and it imparts a variety of benefits to improve a person’s overall well-being through physical activity, the mind-body connection, the sensory experience, the practice of mindfulness, and a strengthened connection to nature.

12. Can Reduce the Risk of Major Illnesses

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that light to moderate physical activities, like gardening, could significantly reduce an individual’s risk of death from any major disease.

Over the course of 11 years, the study followed 88,000 Americans between the ages of 40 and 85. Those who participated in just 10 to 59 minutes of moderate physical activity each week were 12% less likely to die from a major cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. Also, those who exercised regularly were 18% less likely to die from any cause.

In addition to helping prevent heart disease, physical activity, like gardening, can also help prevent individuals from developing type 2 diabetes.

Plus, regular gardening has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Just be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and cover up your skin so that all the extra time in the sun doesn’t contribute to increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

In general, keeping active will keep your body healthier overall, meaning you can enjoy living with an overall reduced risk of illness.

13. Can Help You Eat More Healthily

When you visit the produce aisle at the grocery store, how often do you really think about where your kale or carrots came from and how it took to transport them from their place in the soil to the shelf in your local market?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give the foods you eat a second thought. As long as your vegetables taste great, what difference does it make in how they find their way to your plate?

Well, it actually makes a big difference. Several factors go into the growing process that can affect the environment and your food’s health. Growing your own food can help you learn about the process and inspire curiosity about the quality of nutrients in your food, where it comes from, how it is grown, what kind of impact it has on the environment, and more.

As a result, growing your own food could help you make healthier food choices by choosing foods that are grown without certain fertilizers or pesticides that contain chemicals that can be dangerous to ingest or harmful to the environment.

Gardening also might encourage you to seek out locally grown produce to reduce the impact of shipping and freight on the environment. It can also inspire you to eat fully ripe fruits and vegetables with a higher concentration of nutrients.

14. Gardening Can Help You Learn New Skills

A soil patch in a garden with a selection of gardening tools and young plants

While gardening is usually referred to as a single activity, to become a better gardener and grow plants successfully, one must actually possess knowledge of an entire subset of skills.

Some of the skills you can learn to become a more successful gardener include:

  • Soil Analysis – Different plants require different types of soil and nutrients to grow. Before planting, you should test your soil’s pH to determine whether it is acidic, alkaline, or neutral. You should also learn to analyze soil type to ensure you’re planting in the correct type of soil that can offer the appropriate nutrients and moisture level to your plants.
  • Composting and Fertilizing – The best way to provide your garden plants with the nutrients they need is by composting to reduce waste while producing natural fertilizer. By learning how to compost, you can repurpose your food waste, lawn clippings, and other yard debris, transforming them into food for your plants.
  • Sun Exposure Charting or Sunlight Tracking – You can learn how to use sun exposure sheets or a sunlight meter to chart out the sunlight exposure levels of the various areas of your garden to make sure plants receive the amount of sunlight they need.
  • Watering – With a garden, you need to track how much water your plants need while factoring in the weather conditions (heat and humidity) to determine an appropriate watering schedule. You can further hone your watering skills by providing your plants with the right kind of water (rainwater or filtered water) and designing and implementing watering systems like rain collectors, sprinklers, misters, and drip lines.
  • Seed Starting – The most common way to grow plants is from their seeds (as opposed to propagation from root, leaf, or stem cuttings). Each plant has different preferences and parameters that are necessary to ensure the proper germination of seeds, growth timing, and more.
  • Seed Saving – When gardening, you can save some money and create a self-sustaining garden by learning how and when to collect seeds from your plants in addition to learning how to store them properly.
  • Pollinating – If you want your plants to produce fruits, they need to be pollinated. Learn about which plants will attract local pollinators in your area and add these to your garden. If you still aren’t yielding enough fruit, learn more creative ways to help your plants get pollinated, like vibrating each flower and spreading pollen with the buzz of an electric toothbrush.
  • Planter Building – For a gardening experience that is easier on your back and knees or a landscape that offers a more dynamic look, you can learn how to contour your growing ground by building raised beds.
  • Container Gardening – Container gardening is a great way to grow plants that might spread too easily to other parts of your garden, like mint. It can also offer a fun way to decorate your patio or for growing plants that need to be overwintered indoors. You can learn all about creating miniature plant habitats inside containers to open your gardening hobby up to a whole new world.
  • Transplanting – Whether you’re growing in containers or in the ground, learning how and when to transplant your plants enables you to move plants, overwinter plants, and help your garden thrive.
  • Propagating Plants – There are a variety of ways to propagate plants to multiply your garden collection or share plants with friends. These propagation methods include plant division, soft and hardwood cuttings, leaf cuttings, stem cuttings, and more. Each type of plant requires slightly different methods.
  • Mulching – Mulching is a great way to protect plants from cold temperatures in the winter and to provide nutrients during the growing seasons. Learn to make your own mulch and how to apply it to your garden.
  • Harvesting and Pruning – Harvesting and pruning requirements differ from plant to plant and climate to climate. You can learn the best times and methods for both to increase the vitality and success of your garden.
  • Managing Pests and Diseases – Most plants are susceptible to a variety of plant pests and diseases like aphids, caterpillars, slugs, snails, root rot, fungus, spider mites, mildew, mold, and more. Learn to recognize the signs of these issues and how to get them safely under control in your garden.
  • Using and Maintaining Gardening Tools – Gardening also requires a variety of tools like shovels, clippers, pruning shears, gloves, irrigation equipment, and more. Learn how to use these tools and maintain them so that they’ll last you for years and years.

15. Gardening Exposes You to Beneficial Bacteria

The microbiome (the bacteria living inside our bodies) can benefit from the exercise activity of gardening and the regular exposure to beneficial bacteria living inside your garden soil.

Having an environment filled with vegetation has been shown to have an effect on the diversity of the gut’s microbiome. Another study has suggested that soil exposure can change the gut’s microbiome to support a stronger immune system (in mice, at least).

Although some beneficial bacteria are in the garden, don’t start eating dirt just yet. The soil also contains potentially harmful bacteria, so it’s still best to practice good hygiene by thoroughly washing your hands after digging in the dirt.

16. Can Help Supplement Your Body’s Vitamin D Levels and Strengthen Your Immune System

An ornamental garden in bloom

As a result of the increased time spent outside while gardening, the additional sunlight exposure boosts levels of vitamin D production in the body, and vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential to the proper functioning of the body’s immune system (its defense against infectious disease).

Vitamin D enhances the function of the body’s immune cells and is critical for activating the immune system, fighting inflammation, and regulating the immune response. As a result, it is often argued that supplementing vitamin D or spending more time outdoors to naturally supplement the body’s vitamin D levels can help you avoid contagious diseases or getting seriously ill from contracting an infectious disease.

Low levels of vitamin D or vitamin D deficiency have even been associated with increased susceptibility to or risk of illness, infection, and disease in general.

So, now you have another reason to spend more time working in the garden – your immune system!

17. Can Provide Purpose, Ownership, and Responsibility

Like any project you decide to take on, gardening can help you find a rewarding purpose in life. Starting a garden requires you to set goals, learn new skills, work hard, and dedicate yourself to nurturing seeds into fully grown, fully alive plants that (depending on what you decide to plant) can eventually nurture you with their nutrients, too!

When you start a garden, you take ownership of your outdoor space and responsibility for achieving your gardening goals. When you have a yard full of lovely plants and a kitchen filled with delicious, fresh produce, you’ll truly have something to be proud of.

18. Gardening Can Help With Anger Management

“I’m so angry I could plant a row of cabbages!” probably isn’t a phrase you have ever uttered, let alone ever expected to read. However, gardening to control feelings of anger has become a fairly common practice, so common, in fact, that it’s been given its own name in popular culture: rage gardening.

Gardening can help individuals manage negative emotions like anger and frustration by channeling the energy into a productive purpose. 

The physical activity and time spent outdoors in nature also have the power to release mood-boosting endorphins while calming your blood pressure. As a result, physical feelings of anxiety are effectively eliminated, helping to calm your mind as well.

19. Gardening Can Help With Recovery From Addiction

Horticultural therapy, or the intentional use of gardening as a therapeutic treatment tool, has taken root in the treatment of substance abuse, with many rehabilitation clinics prescribing it to patients as a part of their recovery treatment programs.

It really should come as no surprise that gardening – with its myriad benefits that positively affect the body, mind, and emotions – would benefit individuals recovering from addiction.

Improvements in mindfulness, reduced anxiety, and better physical health can all contribute to the type of physical, emotional, and mental reset necessary for overcoming addiction.

20. Can Help With the Management of Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety is characterized by persistent anxiety, stress, worries, and fear associated with concerns about the future of the environment and the life it shelters. 

This stress can come with the increasing media coverage regarding climate change, as a result of one’s personal impact, and lived experiences (floods, major storms, droughts, wildfires, etc.) that are direct results of climate change.

In addition to seeking professional help from a licensed therapist, one of the best ways to help manage stress from eco-anxiety is by taking steps to reduce your impact and improve the health of the environment through sustainable gardening.

21. Gardening Is Good for the Whole Family

Many of the benefits of gardening are most relevant to adults. However, the benefits of gardening extend to the younger generations, too!

The primary way that gardening benefits children is by increasing their willingness to eat their fruits and vegetables. If your child is like every other child, the chances are that getting them to make healthy choices at mealtime can be challenging, but children who participate in growing their produce are more likely to eat it.

Gardening can be used educationally to teach a variety of subjects, including biology, environmental science, agriculture, economics, math, and more! While gardening, children learn important lessons about photosynthesis, pollination, and the lifecycle of plants, in addition to the importance of composting for safe, sustainable fertilization.

Whether you start a garden at home or have access to a school-based gardening program, you’ll help your kids learn important lessons about science, food sources, and sustainability while encouraging them to eat more healthily.

22. Gardening Is Good for the Air

A colorful garden filled with a variety of plants and flowers

Depending on where you live, your household products, the materials in your house, and more, the air inside your home could potentially be filled with toxins and other impurities. Indoor gardening can purify the air inside your home, improving your indoor air quality and increasing oxygen levels.

While all plants can help increase oxygen levels, not all are equally talented at removing airborne toxins and purifying the air. NASA performed a clean air study that tested several different types of commonly cultivated houseplants to determine their effect on environmental air pollution. The study evaluated which ones could most effectively remove toxins (benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, and ammonia), specifically which toxins they could eradicate, and how efficiently they could remove CO2 and replenish the oxygen in an indoor environment.

According to the study, some of the best plants to include in your indoor garden are English ivy, peace lily, bamboo palm, parlor palm, lady palm, snake plant, florist’s chrysanthemum, aloe vera, and various dracaena plants, in addition to several others. 

Simply growing these plants inside your home can help make your house a healthier living environment for all of its air-breathing occupants.

23. Gardening Adds Value to Your Home

Adding a garden and maintaining a well-manicured lawn can significantly increase your curb appeal and your home’s value. Landscaping items that have the most positive impact on home value include:

  • Low-maintenance greenery (fruit trees can actually detract from home value)
  • Well-manicured lawn
  • Healthy shrubs and trees
  • Tidy garden
  • Fresh mulch
  • Landscaped walkway
  • Colorful garden beds and container plants
  • Automated irrigation system

The bottom line is having a nice, attractive garden and well-maintained yard is going to make your home look beautiful and welcoming from the street, making it more enticing to potential buyers.

24. Can Provide an Abundance of Fresh Homegrown Flowers

A lush ornate garden filled with an array of colorful blooming flowers

Planting a cutting garden is a great way to take up two hobbies at once: gardening and floral design. You can create a garden that offers flowering plants during every growing season in your climate so that you’ll have ample opportunity to snip stems, dry flowers, and arrange them to your heart’s content.

25. Gardening Provides a Place to Relax

Although gardening is tough work, many people find it incredibly relaxing. This is thanks, in part, to the above-mentioned therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature and practicing mindfulness in the task of gardening.

Additionally, a well-maintained garden is a great place to add an outdoor bench or hammock where you can recline with a cup of tea and a good book and simply enjoy the beautiful fruits of your labor.

26. Can Help Provide Native Ecosystems for Insects, Pollinators, and Wildlife in Urban Areas

Ecosystems rely on native plants to support pollinator and insect populations that create the base of the food chain by helping plants reproduce and also by ensuring small animals that eat insects have plenty of food.

Except for the occasional park, cities are primarily concrete jungles that provide little refuge to the native insects, pollinators, and wildlife that are necessary to the health and continuity of the larger ecosystem.

Cities lacking green spaces become veritable dead zones for native plants and wildlife. As a result, populations of vital pollinators like the Bombus pennsylvanicus, other insects, and wildlife are declining in several regions.

In the Netherlands, however, several urban areas have implemented initiatives supporting urban gardening and bee hotel installation. The results of these programs are very promising, with pollinator populations stabilizing and even thriving in Dutch cities. Hopefully, the success of these projects will inspire other cities to promote urban gardening and pollinator health.

27. Gardening Can Help With Climate Change

Although growing plants can help remove CO2 from the atmosphere, certain gardening practices can actually contribute to climate change. If you want to garden to help combat climate change, do so in a sustainable manner.

Some ways you can garden to benefit the environment include:

  • Maximize the green space around your home.
  • Avoiding the use of gasoline-powered gardening tools
  • Plant native species in your garden to support your local wildlife and reduce the impact of invasive plant species on the plant life in your immediate environment.
  • Reduce water consumption by mulching, installing rain barrels and garden mats, and using drip irrigation.
  • Compost your yard, garden, and kitchen or food waste to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Plant lots of new trees in your garden to soak up the CO2.

If you live in a city setting where you don’t have a backyard, you can plant window boxes and containers on your balcony or, better yet, find out what it would take to start a rooftop garden at your apartment building.

Gardening for a Healthier, More Beautiful Life

In addition to the many benefits of gardening on the body and mind, gardening helps create a more beautiful outdoor environment. Whether you choose to grow a vegetable garden, start a berry patch, or simply enjoy a bed full of blossoming flowers, you’ll be sure to get immeasurable enjoyment from watching your seedlings sprout and grow into a gorgeous garden of greenery.

For more, see our comprehensive guide to the benefits of flowers and the amazing benefits of plants.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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