Learn How You Can Reap the Benefits of Gardening for Mind and Body

The Health Benefits of Gardening: How Nature Nurtures Mind and Body

April 1, 2024

Every day that I spend in my garden I can feel my mood improve. And it is really no surprise that gardening has a myriad of benefits for both the mind and body. Gardening combines the perfect recipe for wellbeing: sunlight, fresh air, movement, nature, and a sense of accomplishment and belonging. Studies are showing that being outside in nature, especially gardening, has many benefits to both physical and mental health. Here are just a few of the many benefits:

  • Sunlight offers vitamin D and can lower blood pressure [i]
  • Gardening can be a workout! It can increase your strength and improve your stamina
  • The fruits and vegetables you grow improve your diet
  • Community gardens have the special added benefit of increasing your social interaction and sense of community; this social aspect of gardening can even delay the symptoms of dementia [ii]
  • Gardening can have a positive effect on your BMI [iii]
  • Gardening can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression among other mental health outcomes, such as through the exposure to soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae [iv]
  • Gardening improves your overall life satisfaction [v]

The beautiful thing about gardening is that it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. Here are 4 tips for getting your hands dirty and enjoying the benefits of gardening:

1. Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening can be as simple as placing some plants in a sunny window. Southern and eastern facing windows are always preferred as they provide the best amount of sunlight for your plants. If you don’t have a sunny window, you can also consider investing in some small LED lights that can hang above your plants. Some people even get as fancy as trying hydroponic solutions, which can be a lot of fun when it’s the dead of winter and you’re harvesting lettuce indoors. Even having non-edible indoor plants can provide lots of health benefits including improved air quality, better cognition, and a relaxed physiology. [vi]

2. Container Gardening

A quick Google search of “container gardening” brings up an abundance of fun and creative options for growing plants on patios and balconies. One of my favorite options is the vertical planters like Greenstalk. Growing vertically like this provides you a lot more room for plants with a small footprint. And don’t forget about hanging planters, too! They give you some great growing areas without taking up precious walking space. But before you start investing in containers, first check to see where the sun hits on your patio or balcony and plan to put your plants there so they can see the sun. Ideally, most plants need 6 or more hours of sun to thrive.  It’s also important to remember that container plants tend to dry out faster and need more fertilizer than in ground plants.

3. Community Gardens

I love it when I’m driving around town and spot a community garden. Not only are they a breath of fresh air to see in an urban landscape, but they are such a wonderful opportunity to get your hands dirty as well as make some fellow garden-loving friends. If you need help finding a community garden near you, check out the American Community Garden Association website and see what’s around and get in contact with the garden coordinator. Be aware that some community gardens have a small annual membership fee.

Also worth mentioning are the wonderful school gardens. Mounting evidence suggests that adolescents who are exposed to “green spaces” have positive changes in attention, memory and mood. [vi] Beyond these health benefits, kids who are involved in the growing and harvesting of fruits and vegetables have less picky eating habits and are more likely to try new foods. [viii, ix] What’s not to like about that?

4. Raised Bed Gardening

This is my personal favorite way to grow food. Raised beds are much easier on the back and can make gardening more accessible for those with limited mobility. These beds can range from being only 6 inches high to 3 feet high, depending on what is best for you. If you have kids that will want to be in the garden with you, plan for beds that are less than 2 feet high so they can access them as well. There are many different materials that can be used to create raised beds: you can build them from wood (cedar is one of the longest lasting woods), use concrete blocks, create beds from foraged branches, or purchase premade metal ones. A money saving tip you can try is layering your raised bed with organic materials you already have like small twigs, dried leaves, and grass clippings and top it off with good quality soil. Those organic materials will break down over time and improve your soil as they do. Be sure to add fresh soil every year or two as things settle.

Free Gardening Resources

If you have never gardened before, starting a garden can feel daunting. Even experienced gardeners can feel baffled when things go awry. Thankfully, there are so many wonderful and totally free resources available.

First, check out your county local extension office and/or Master Gardener program near you. Master Gardeners provide so many free resources to their community including hand-on workshops.

Second, find some great YouTube accounts and podcasts that focus on gardening. I honed many of my gardening skills while washing dishes and folding laundry! Two of my favorite YouTube Channels are Epic Gardening and MI Gardener. I even started my own channel a few years ago to help make gardening knowledge more accessible.

And lastly, find a community of fellow gardeners. If you see a neighbor with a beautiful garden, stop by and say hi! I bet they wouldn’t mind answering some of your questions. Joining a community garden can be a great way to glean from other gardeners.


Gardening offers a multitude of physical and mental benefits that enrich our lives in profound ways. From nurturing vibrant blooms to cultivating a sense of peace within, the act of tending to plants rejuvenates our body and mind. As you explore ways to include more plants and nature into your life, may see your spirit uplifted and may you find others to join you in this fun (and sometimes dirty) journey!

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[i] Weller R. B. (2016). Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D. Blood Purification, 41(1-3), 130–134.

[ii] Thompson R. (2018). Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening. Clinical Medicine, 18(3), 201–205.

[iii] Kunpeuk, W., Spence, W., Phulkerd, S., et al. (2020). The impact of gardening on nutrition and physical health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Promotion International, 35(2), 397–408.

[iv] Foxx, C. L., Heinze, J. D., González, A., et al. (2021). Effects of Immunization With the Soil-Derived Bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae on Stress Coping Behaviors and Cognitive Performance in a "Two Hit" Stressor Model. Frontiers in Physiology, 11, 524833.

[v] Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2016). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, 92–99.

[vi] Han, K. T., Ruan, L. W., & Liao, L. S. (2022). Effects of Indoor Plants on Human Functions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(12), 7454.

[vii] Zhang, Y., Mavoa, S., Zhao, J., et al. (2020). The Association between Green Space and Adolescents' Mental Well-Being: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(18), 6640.

[viii] Kähkönen, K., Rönkä, A., Hujo, M., et al. (2018). Sensory-based food education in early childhood education and care, willingness to choose and eat fruit and vegetables, and the moderating role of maternal education and food neophobia. Public Health Nutrition, 21(13), 2443–2453.  

[ix] Savoie-Roskos, M. R., Wengreen, H., & Durward, C. (2017). Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Children and Youth through Gardening-Based Interventions: A Systematic Review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(2), 240–250.

About the author

Jolene Wainwright is a certified Master Gardener who grew up helping her father with their large market garden in Idaho. She is passionate about making gardening accessible to everyone and encouraging her community to start growing. She gardens in western Washington and is assisted by her husband and young son, with another little boy expected in April. You can find her on most social media platforms as “Our Sanctuary Garden.”