I started growing vegetables in my back yard a few years ago. After spending a small fortune for organic produce at the local farmers market, I thought this is food I could grow myself! After all, I had the space to do it, and how hard could it be to plant seeds and water them now and then?

Unfortunately gardening wasnt quite that easy. Some plants were more of a challenge than others, and there were as many pests to worry about in the vegetable patches as there were in my flowerbeds. Despite the initial trouble, I stuck with it and found gardening to be a calming and relaxing hobby.

Instead of watching my children play in the yard, now Im playing with them and as they get older, theyre spending more time helping me with weeding, pruning, and other gardening-related chores. Its become a relaxing family activity that we can really enjoy together. Here are some of the other benefits of gardening:

  1. STRESS RELIEF Gardening is a great way to de-stress. In todays technological society that demands that we pay attention to multiple things at one, gardening allows us to relax our minds as well as our bodies. Its more effective than reading or working out, and some studies show that gardening can actually lower cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress.
  2. FIGHT DEPRESSION Gardening forces us to get outdoors into the sunshine. The suns rays are filled with Vitamin D, which is important for maintaining good health. However natural exposure to the sun can also help fight Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as well as some other forms of depression, including bipolar disorder. Thats because gardening increases the bodys natural production of serotonin, an ingredient found in many anti-depressant drugs.
  3. PHYSICAL HEALTH Gardening requires a lot of different movements, including bending and stretching. I get as much benefit from the physical activity associated with gardening as I do from attending a full session of yoga class at my local community center. While its not going to give me the same benefits of pumping iron or running a marathon, it does help build strength. Because its low-impact, its perfect for all members of your family even if they have disabilities or have difficulty getting around due to age.
  4. BRAIN HEALTH Gardening requires you to think. The sights and scents in a garden combine to create a relaxing, pleasing atmosphere that lower stress. But keeping after the different plans requires remembering what each species needs. Physical activity thats linked to mental activity, like gardening, has a positive influence on the mind. These types of activities can actually slow down the effects of dementia, or possibly even lower the risk of it.
  5. DIET AND NUTRITION Gardening allows you to grow your own food. Even flowers are edible, in the right recipe. Last summer my family enjoyed dandelion leaves in salad, along with fresh basil and iceberg lettuce. Gardening allows us to grow organic foods in our own back yard, making for cheaper and healthier meals than those made with store-bought ingredients. Even our familys pickiest eater is more willing to try new foods from the garden than from the grocery store or in a restaurant.

The garden has brought my family closer together. We dont watch a lot of television, but when we do we find ourselves drawn to cooking programs that shows us different ways to use the foods that we grow in the backyard. We also like DIY shows that offer inspiration for new landscaping techniques. Last summer we were inspired to build a water feature, for example. Now when we get a chance to sit in the backyard, the tranquil sound of a trickling waterfall lends a soothing feeling to the atmosphere.

Starting your own garden is easy. You dont need a big backyard. In fact, you dont need a yard at all. I have a friend who lives in an apartment, but enjoys container gardening on the small balcony just off her living room. You could look for information online, but I recommend asking at your local community farmers market. In addition to a wealth of information, some of these seasoned gardeners might offer seedlings for sale.

One common trait that you will find among gardeners, even more than a green thumb, is that we love to talk about our gardens. We talk about plants like proud grandparents talk about the children of their offspring. If there is no gardening group in your community, and you have no way of starting one up, then consider connecting with other gardeners in an online forum. They will be able to support you as you get started, and once your garden is established you can offer the same comfort to future newbie gardeners. If my family can succeed at it, anyones can!