Transcending Generations: The Benefits of Gardening
Why I jumped on the Millennial gardening trend, and why you should too.
My Mother has always been an avid gardener for as long as I can remember. She could start a store for plant related books, is always looks for good seeds, and is constantly planning (and re-planning) her garden for the upcoming season. About five years ago, she began planting beyond aesthetically pleasing flowers and trees, and started gardening vegetables and fruit for our family’s consumption.
My Grandparents were also avid gardeners. Originally from Southern Italy in a small village, they relied on their gardening skills primarily for sustenance and most importantly for their survival. Living through World War 2 in a poor rural area meant that many things were scarce- especially food. If you could not grow your own, you would have struggled to survive. Even then people still went hungry! My Grandfather could make anything grow- something that fascinated me as a young girl. At one point I thought he had magic powers because he could turn tiny seeds into massive delicious vegetables with what seemed like no effort at all. His garden was his third child and would cultivate some of the largest tomatoes and zucchini I have ever seen in my life.
Growing up, although I was surrounded by Green-Thumbs, I never took an interest in gardening. I would help out a little as a child, but I wasn’t supremely passionate about the subject. I would go with my Mom to the flower store to purchase seeds and plants for the season, but I never looked much past that. Fast forward fifteen years and that would all change.
According to National Post, Millennials are avid plant-parents. Finally, I can research something about my generation without seeing “Millennials are killing x” in the title!
In the U.S., houseplant sales have increased 50 per cent in the last three years to $1.7 billion, according to the National Gardening Association. Statistics Canada doesn’t break down houseplant versus garden plant sales, but overall plant sales increased by eight per cent to $1.5 billion from 2013 to 2018.
According to The Telegraph, research published this spring showed that Millennials are buying more plants than their parents.
In case you may not be an avid gardener or plant parent, here are some reasons that gardening is an asset to living, and they’re not all for aesthetic social media posts.
Gardening for the Environment
My interest in gardening was initially piqued when I began immersing myself in ways to be more environmentally conscious. After understanding factory farming, GMO’s, pesticides and the endangering of the bees, I was curious to see how I could play a part in reducing my footprint and living more aware of my food choices.
Saving the Bees
A major environmental benefit that has been a buzz-worthy topic is planting for the Bees. Most farmland in North America is taken up with monoculture crops such as wheat, soy, canola and corn. While pursuing these highly profitable crops, we have neglected and endangered one of the most important aspects of humanity. You see, without bees to pollenate our flowers and crops, we would have no food to grow. The extinction of the bee leaves our days numbered, and planting flowers and crop that are bee friendly will only do good things for our world.
A nice tip I like to share with people is to leave a portion of your grass or land completely untouched. Put your Roundup and sprays away and leave a section of grass or garden free for the bees to roam at their leisure. Dandelions are an amazing naturally prominent flower to leave for the bees to collect from and relax on top of during a warm summer day. Keep those around, and your bees will be very happy!
Another tip I highly recommend is to source plants and seeds that are not treated with Neonicotinoids, a pesticide that has been shown to harm and even kill bees. Take a look at this article for more information and how to educate yourself about this serious issue. Look for plants in your garden store that are free from this pesticide.
While you’re at it, try to avoid all pesticides and chemically altered plants when you can.
Fossil Fuels and Pollution
By growing your own produce, you are indirectly reducing the fossil fuel usage and transportation related pollution. You keep plastic cartons out of landfills, and you reduce the amount of fossil fuels used for transport of your veggies down to zero.
One Green Planet mentions these statistics:
“It is estimated that an average distance of 1,500 miles is traveled before the food is consumed. This large-scale, long-distance transportation of food relies heavily on the energy from burning fossil fuels. In fact, it is estimated that we currently put nearly 10 kilo calories of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kilo-calorie of energy we get as food.”
Reduction of Plastic Usage and Landfill Waste
Another hot topic (and rightly so) is our abundance of single-use plastics that have contaminated our oceans almost beyond repair. By growing your own garden and harvesting your own vegetables, you do not contribute to the plastic packaging that is required to transport and store your food in the grocery store. Single use grocery bags for produce? Completely eliminated. Those clear plastic cartons used for berries? No longer necessary. Any reduction of single use plastic is positive, and this is one way you can do that.
Gardening for Finance
Gardening is a great way to save money on produce. It takes a little bit more work than going to the store and buying certain fruits, herbs and vegetables, however, you are still reaping financial savings regardless! As produce becomes more and more expensive, it is slowly becoming a privilege to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from the store. No longer can we buy produce at the cost that many used to twenty or thirty years ago, and in the cities, it’s even more expensive. By growing your own, you can enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour with no money spent at the store. You can pick your vegetables at the peak of ripeness and eat them straight away for the best taste.
Cindy Haynes from Iowa State University wrote an excellent piece on how to garden in a way that is financially friendly. She says:
Select the vegetables you like
Select the vegetables that are easy to store
Select vegetables that are expensive to purchase at a store
Cristen Conger broke the cost benefit down in this article, where she uses tomatoes as an example.
Four tomato plants would run you about $15. The average yield for a row of about four plants is 60 pounds (27 kilograms) [source: Iowa State University]. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the going retail price per pound for tomatoes is $1.77, while yours only cost about 25 cents.
So you see, there are financial benefits to growing a garden as well. By making a plan and growing vegetables that are otherwise more expensive to purchase in a store, you will be saving yourself some money down the line.
Now, if you’re like me and live in Canada, you may not be able to have a Mango or Orange tree, but at least I can save on other vegetables and fruit that I can grow in my country’s climate.
Gardening for Health
This is a big one that has really hit home for me. As someone who struggles with depression (and has for many years), it’s very hard for me to stay motivated. Gardening has not only helped my confidence, but it has reduced my overall stress levels, given me a tangible goal, and has a nice balance of Short Term and Delayed Gratification.
There are also scientific studies that provide evidence towards the positive effects of gardening:
A research group at Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology at the University of Bristol has shown that Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria naturally found in our soil, stimulated a newly discovered group of neurons, increased levels of serotonin and decreased levels of anxiety in mice. (Source)
Lowers Cortisol Levels
Stress is known to shorten our lifespan, and gardening can be a very good remedy to keep those stress hormones low. Two Dutch scientists reported findings in this study and concluded based on salivary cortisol level tests, that gardening (as well as reading) does in fact lower your body’s cortisol levels.
So you see, the benefits are huge. I hope that this article convinces you just how important gardening is both for your health, and for the health of the planet. This trend is definitely positive, and has shown us that it is mutually beneficial to care for our planet and ourselves by taking a small amount of time each day to get some dirt under our fingernails.