Gardening offers many health benefits

Gardening promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Christina Rittenbach
Christina Rittenbach, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences division of the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Stutsman County
Contributed / NDSU Extension

Although spring has just begun and snow is still lingering in our lawns, garden season is nearly upon us. If you haven’t gardened much in the past, you may want to consider it this year — particularly if you’re trying to improve your health.

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Many studies show that gardening promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, community gardeners consumed fruits and vegetables 5.7 times per day, home gardeners 4.6 times per day and nongardeners 3.9 times per day.

Some researchers have linked gardening to the prevention of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones through time. Walking, lifting watering cans and hoeing are a few of the gardening activities that help strengthen our bones. These activities can also improve our joint health, flexibility and fine motor skills.

In addition to improving our physical health, gardening may have positive impacts on our mental health. Gardening is an activity during which we can practice mindfulness — existing in the moment and using our senses to see, smell, listen to, and feel the nature around us.


The soil can offer us another benefit to our mental health. There is a specific kind of bacteria found in the soil that has been known to stimulate certain areas of the brain and produce serotonin (the happy brain chemical). Digging in the dirt can actually improve your mood!

If you are interested in gardening but don’t know how to get started, here are some tips:

  • Find a place to plant a garden. A community garden may be an option. Contact your community garden about reserving a spot soon because garden plots may be in demand. If you have space, ensure it has rich soil and full sun exposure. If you do not have a community garden or enough space, consider planting vegetables such as string beans or tomatoes in containers.
  • Locate a water source. Most vegetables aren’t drought-tolerant; you’ll need to give them drinks during the dry spells. Remember, the closer the water source, the easier for you to make sure your plants get the water they need.
  • Decide what to plant. Choose plants that grow well in your climate. For example, corn, potatoes and tomatoes are dominant plants in North Dakota.
  • Decide on a growing method. You can start growing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers indoors, then transplant the seedlings to your garden when the weather warms. Or you can sow seeds for vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beans and peas directly into the garden.
  • Know when to plant. In North Dakota, the best time generally is in May, but the beginning of June is OK, too.
  • Enjoy your garden. Gardening provides an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also is an excellent source of physical activity for you and your family.

Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, can be contacted at (701) 252-9030 or

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