BENEFITS OF GARDENING
This point is so fascinating! In the late 1980s and ’90s researchers came to realize that living in a modernized world where bacterial exposure is limited was linked with hay fever and other autoimmune disorders. Microbiologist and immunologist Graham Rook later took a similar view with his “old friends” hypothesis, which posits that humans—and specifically their immune systems—have become dependent on the microbes they coevolved with for tens of thousands of years or more. Many harmless bacteria seem to be essential in developing and boosting a healthy immune system. New studies suggest that exposure to friendly soil bacteria could also improve mood by boosting the immune system just as effectively as antidepressant drugs.
It’s commonplace today for people to clean their hands with antibacterial or antimicrobial soap, spray their bathrooms and kitchens with bleach and other sanitizers and wash their dishes and clothes at “germ-killing” settings. No doubt, it’s an effective weapon for keeping germs at bay. But that doesn’t mean we should aim to have our families, including kids whose immune systems are still developing, avoid all germs – if there were even a way to do that! That’s because a growing body of research is showing that microbes – microscopic organisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses – and dirt are crucial for our well-being. Research indicates that early exposures to a variety of microbes may help lower the risk of developing conditions like asthma and allergies. According to the hygiene hypothesis, people who grow up in areas with high levels of sanitation lack normal evolutionary exposure to microbes, pollen and other microscopic things in the environment. The lack of that exposure negatively affects the development of their immune system, according to the hypothesis. Researchers like Carpenter and Krishnan say they aren’t against good hygiene. Instead, they say that modern society has gone overboard with deploying antibacterial soap and germ-killing cleaning products, which indiscriminately kills germs – including good bacteria that help maintain a person’s strong and diverse microbiome. Everyone has a microbiome, a collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live on and in our body, the majority in our large intestine. “The more diverse your microbiome is, the healthier you are,” Krishnan says. A study published in 2015 in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, an international peer-reviewed journal, studied the effects of the use of bleach – effective in killing germs – in the homes of more than 9,000 kids ages 6 to 12 in Spain, the Netherlands and Finland. The incidence of infections such as the flu, tonsillitis, sinusitis, bronchitis and pneumonia were more prevalent in the homes where bleach was used, the study found.
You don’t have to live or work on a farm to boost the diversity of your microbiome. Experts suggests these strategies:
Reduce your use of chlorine-based cleaners.
Skip the antibacterial soaps.
Start a garden 😉
Consider getting a pet.
Have closer interactions with people.
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Gardening is a hobby that can easily and effectively increase your daily access to healthy foods. Nutritious snacks and delicious dinners are at the arm’s reach when you regularly keep a garden. Whether you garden at home or with your community, regular access to fruits and vegetables can really improve your nutrition.
As you grow and tend to your vegetable garden, you learn and deepen your passion. There is a great satisfaction in preparing, planting, and tending to your plants until they mature. Harvesting our own produce – bountiful or sparse – fills us with pride and feeling of self-reliance. And whenever we have a surplus, it is a joy to share it with neighbors and friends.
In any kind of gardening, you are working towards an end goal – a yield in a vegetable garden or a beautiful landscape in an ornamental one. It is one thing to plant and quite another to care for plants. The vision of our goal motivates us day after day to keep tending to our green patch until we reap what we sow and it becomes a habit that spills over to the rest of our life activities.
IMPROVES OUR FITNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH
Gardening can be an everyday activity. Depending on the type of work, it can be more or less sportive. But even with the lightest of gardening work like weeding, pruning or watering, the fact that we are outdoors in touch with nature and its elements, can be of tremendous benefits if done regularly. You may also be surprised by how relaxed you feel after you spend some time among the plants. Being immersed in nature, including a garden, opens the door for creativity to bloom. Unplugging from technology and stepping outside to do work in the garden is refreshing for the mind and spirit. In fact, many people decide to take up gardening as a stress-relieving hobby. Interestingly, it turns out the dirt contains a mood boosting microorganism called Mycobacterium vaccae. This particular bacterium causes cytokine levels to decrease, which in turn boosts the production of serotonin – a happy hormone that impacts your entire body. It enables communication between brain cells and also helps with sleeping, eating and digestion. So gardening isn’t just a physical activity. It is a spiritual as well as a hobby that can offer cognitive learning and plenty of social interactions in a communal gardening setting.
There are many environmental benefits related to gardening. These include keeping the environment green especially by reducing our carbon footprint. Did you know that you eliminate about 1 kg of CO2e for half a kg of produce you grow instead of buy? Grow what you eat! Those cucumbers, herbs and greens you usually get from the store are easy to grow even for a beginner gardener. Don’t forget to plant trees and flowers to keep nature in balance. This will keep the pests away and encourage the good bugs, which protect the plants. By planting trees, you also help store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. By practicing regenerative organic gardening, you are decreasing your carbon print from the production of synthetic fertilizers and building a healthy soil biology. Good soil is the basis of your success in the garden, but not all regions have quality soil. Other than getting locally sourced natural fertilizers and compost, you can improve your garden and eliminate the need for store-bought soil by composting your kitchen and garden waste. Also, cover the ground to reduce evaporation, so you can water less! Mulching will give your garden resilience during the dry season and protect soil from compaction and erosion during the torrential rains of the rainy season. Mulch will also protect your plants from soil splash and diseases that are spread with soil splash droplets. Important positive impact our gardening can have on the environment is also by creating a natural habitat for beneficial insects, small animals, and birds to live in.
FAMILY FUN TIME AND KIDS LEARNING GROUND
Children enjoy gardening just as much as adults. This green activity gives a family an opportunity to spend quality time together, have fun at the same time and jointly enjoy the harvest. Gardening can also serve as an important learning ground for our youngest. It engages all five senses and it is a great outdoor opportunity to gain insights into how plants and animals work together. It also develops a sense of duty because a vegetable garden needs our attention and care. Learning how to care for the plants properly — from watering to weeding — is a great lesson in responsibility for kids. Some plants grow better at certain times of the year. Others do well next to another specific plant. Some grow nicely in rows, while others, like wildflower seeds, can be sprinkled around. Gardening is a great opportunity to chat with your kids about research and planning. Kids who understand how much time, effort, and care goes into growing food will also understand better how important farmers are, and why it’s important to take care of our Earth. Gardening also develops math skills; How far apart should seeds be planted? How many does that mean you can plant in each row? How much water does each potted planter need? How many hours of sunlight will plants get each day? Math is a big part of gardening! And last but not least – gardening teaches patience and encourages healthy eating! The time it takes to grow a seed to harvest your veggies takes many weeks, often months. And who can resist trying veggies they’ve grown themselves? Try it straight out of the garden or cook it together in the kitchen — you might find a new favorite food!