Best Life Now

Why Gardening Is Good for Your Health

Nutrition
The food you grow yourself is the freshest food you can eat. And because home gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables, it's also among the healthiest food you can eat. Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers.

"People who are growing food tend to eat healthy," says Brown. "The work that we do here with kids demonstrates it on a daily basis, throughout the seasons."

Studies of after-school gardening programs suggest that kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. And they're a lot more adventurous about giving new foods a try, says Anne Palmer, who studies food environments as the program director of Eating for the Future, a program based at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future, in Baltimore.

"I've watched a lot of cooking and gardening classes with kids," Palmer says. "It's amazing how many of them will try things like radicchio or some kind of unusual green that has a pretty strong flavor, like arugula, and they'll say, 'Wow, this is good.'"

Not to mention that homegrown produce simply tastes better. "It's incomparably more delicious to eat something that's fresh," Brown says.

How to get started
You don't need a big backyard or a green thumb to benefit from gardening. If you have very little space or experience, you can start out with just a few houseplants, or you could even try gardening in containers.

"You can grow a wonderful crop of cherry tomatoes in nothing more than a five-gallon bucket that you've cleaned really well and put holes in the bottom of," Brown says.

For novices who want to learn the basics of gardening, a huge—and somewhat overwhelming—variety of information is available on the Web and in bookstores. But one of the best ways to get started is to meet some other gardeners, who can be found in local garden clubs and community gardens in just about any town or city.

For some great gardening tips, just start up a conversation with one of the gardeners next time you are passing by a community garden. "Most will love to share their gardening savvy," Brown says. "That's a really nice way to start."