Table of Contents Gardening Positive Physical Effects Positive Mental Effects Different Types of Gardens Dress for the Occasion The Usual Tools Conclusion Gardening: Get Out and Grow! Gardening is an ancient phenomenon found across the world, varying based on the culture, the clime, and the purpose. For National Garden Month, we're looking at how gardens can improve physical and mental health, tips for getting started, and the recommended outfit and tools. Positive Physical and Mental Health Effects From hauling around bags of soil to kneeling among the greenery and pulling, digging, and planting, gardening offers plenty of opportunities for improving physical health. Studies have also shown though that gardening can positively affect our mental health as well. Positive Physical Effects Vitamin D and Calcium Exposure to sunlight when you’re gardening can help you increase your vitamin D levels, which positively affects your calcium levels. Multicomponent Physical Activity According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gardening can be a ‘multicomponent’ physical activity depending on the type and intensity of your gardening. Multicomponent physical activities incorporate aerobic, muscle strengthening, and balance exercises. Digging, raking, and mowing are all calorie-intense exercises, and a study found that less than half of the participating gardeners were overweight or obese versus the nearly 70% of the participating non-gardeners. Hand strength Digging, planting, and weeding help you develop hand strength over time. Eating healthier You’ll know where your food comes from – your own garden! Add fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you grow yourself to your plate. You can some fruits, vegetables, or herbs in smaller planters if you don’t want or are unable to commit to a larger garden space. Positive Mental Effects Decreased dementia risk A study found that daily gardening predicted a 36% lower risk of dementia. Mood-boosting Soil contains a specific bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae , that a team of neuroscientists and immunologists have found activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the brain. A study has also shown that Helps combats loneliness Community gardens especially offer the opportunity to connect with other people who share similar interests (flowers, vegetables, gardening in general). These connections can reduce feelings of loneliness. Self-esteem The nurturing, continued care, and successful growth of plants contributes to greater self-esteem. Low maintenance plants can be a good place to start for beginner gardeners or those without a self-proclaimed green thumb. Reduces stress A study examining the effect of gardens and plants in healthcare settings such as hospitals have shown that just looking at greenery, flowers, or water was more effective in promoting recovery or restoration from stress. This was true with both nonpatients and patients in the study. Different Types of Gardens With so many options for what to plant and how to cultivate your garden space, having an idea of some garden types can be a good place to start. Butterfly Gardens Gardens focused on attracting local butterflies. You can plant flowering plants to invite adult butterflies or include a range of plants that provide nectar, water, and shelter for the butterfly’s life stages. Nectar plants provide food for the butterflies and caterpillar food plants, of course, provide food for the caterpillars. Learn more about Butterfly Gardens here . Container Gardens For when you don’t have a lot of gardening space. You can use large planters to plant a variety of plants in one place. Mixing plants that flower at different times in the year can help keep the planter fresh and interesting year round. Fruits, Vegetables & Herbs Homegrown fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be a great way to add some fresh, seasonal flavor to your plate. You can grow a little of everything or focus on one of the three. If you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to choose plants that have the same needs (light, water, soil, etc.) at first. Gardening Tips Whichever type of garden you decide on, here are some general tips. Try using natural herbicides and fertilizers. Your local plant shop or garden center should have most if not all the things you’ll need to get started, including plants and seedlings suited to grow in your area. O ne study has found a connection between more biodiversity and increased psychological benefits, so don’t be afraid to add variety to your garden! Not sure what plants would grow best in your area? You can find information on plant hardiness from the USDA. Dress for the Occasion Recommended outfit and accessory ideas: Hats with a wide brim or visor or bucket hats for when the mosquitos and gnats are out Sunscreen and Sunglasses Loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirt Overalls or long pants to protect your knees Gloves to protect your hands Waist apron or utility bag – keeping your tools within comfortable reach Shoes may depend on the season and climate! Waterproof and/or slip-resistant sandals may work best for summer and spring Work boots that cover your ankles may work best for colder weather Taller rubber boots may work best for wet and rainy areas The Usual Tools Whichever type of garden you choose to start, some basic gardening tools include: Three-tine cultivator for tilling Spade-shaped potting trowel for scooping soil Hand fork for aerating soil Weeder for persistent taproots Narrow trowel for weeds Conclusion You can still strain yourself while gardening, so take it slow and check in with yourself often. Stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and take rests as you need. Consult your physician if you have health concerns when it comes to any of the more strenuous gardening activities.