In recent years, urban gardens have become increasingly popular, not only as a source of fresh, local food, but also as a powerful tool for improving psychological well-being. But what are the real benefits of gardening on the mind? Are there scientific studies on the benefits of gardens for mental health?

Gardening, understood as the practice of growing plants and vegetables, has been shown to have profoundly positive effects on psychological well-being. Several research studies have shown that working with the soil and caring for plants can reduce stress, relieve anxiety and improve mood. Urban gardens, in particular, offer an oasis of tranquility in the city chaos, allowing people to reconnect with nature and regain a sense of calm and serenity.

One of the most fascinating aspects of gardening is its multisensory impact. Contact with the earth, the scent of herbs, the sound of windblown leaves and the sight of colorful flowers stimulate the senses and create an immersive experience that helps take the mind off daily worries. This direct contact with nature is a key element in promoting psychological well-being.

Benefits of gardening for mental health

As we have mentioned, gardening is an activity that offers numerous mental health benefits, contributing significantly to emotional and psychological well-being. From reducing stress and anxiety to providing a therapeutic means for those going through difficult times, gardening proves to be an extremely beneficial practice.

Starting a vegetable garden does not require great resources, just the willingness to devote time to this rewarding activity. Nature, with its calm and beauty, offers a safe and rejuvenating refuge for the mind and soul.

Let’s look in detail at what the psychological benefits of vegetable gardens are and how to start a vegetable garden to improve one’s mental health.

1. Stress reduction

First of all, one of the main benefits of vegetable gardens on mental health is their ability to reduce stress. Contact with nature and manual labor in the garden help to detach the mind from daily worries, promoting a state of relaxation.

Several studies have shown that gardening can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, thus contributing to a feeling of calm and tranquility. Therefore, gardening and stress reduction are closely linked.

2. Horticultural therapy

Horticultural therapy is another demonstration of how gardening can be used to improve mental health. This therapeutic practice uses gardening activities to help people overcome periods of emotional or mental distress. Actively participating in plant cultivation, observing growth and the natural cycles of plant life can have a powerful healing effect, improving mood and overall well-being.

Horticultural therapy is especially recommended for those who need to turn their minds away from strongly negative thoughts. For this reason, it is essential to seek the advice of a professional figure who can provide precise guidance on how to do so.

3. Anxiety reduction

As shown by several psychologists, gardening activities can help reduce anxiety particularly effectively. The simple act of caring for plants, watching their progress, and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor can provide a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that help combat anxiety.

Exactly as in the case of horticultural therapy, we are talking about a simple way to take your mind off worries, focusing instead on a positive and productive activity.

4. School gardens and emotional development

Gardening can also have positive effects on the emotional development of youngsters. School gardens (increasingly popular in kindergartens), for example, provide a unique opportunity for children to learn through direct contact with nature.

These types of projects foster emotional development, teaching children the value of patience, care and responsibility. In addition, working together toward a common goal strengthens a sense of community and collaboration.

If your children’s school is not engaged in a similar activity, you can consider starting together as a family. Creating a small home vegetable garden is very simple and can give you and the little ones a peaceful and fun time.

How to start a therapeutic vegetable garden

For those interested in starting a vegetable garden to improve mental health, the steps to follow are simple and also incredibly rewarding.

You can start by choosing a small space, whether it is a garden, a balcony or even a corner of the house with adequate light. It is important to select plants that require care that is compatible with the time and experience you have. The choice to grow herbs, vegetables or flowers depends on one’s tastes and the local climate. The important thing is to devote passion and perseverance to this activity.

Once you have selected the most suitable types of plants for your vegetable garden, make sure the soil is well prepared. If you use pots or containers, choose ones of appropriate size with good drainage. Use quality, nutrient-rich potting soil to ensure healthy plant growth.

The best plants for a therapeutic vegetable garden

But which plants are best for a therapeutic garden?

The best plants for a therapeutic garden are those that require simple care and offer pleasurable sensory stimulation. The advice is always to start with a few easy-to-manage plants and then gradually expand your garden as you gain experience.

  • Herbs:

Among the best plants for a therapeutic garden, herbs occupy a prominent place. Lavender, for example, is renowned for its relaxing scent that can help reduce anxiety and stress. Rosemary and mint are also excellent choices: the former has stimulating properties and can improve memory, while the latter is refreshing and helps reduce tension.

Another very effective therapeutic plant is chamomile, known for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. Growing chamomile in your therapeutic garden will allow you to prepare relaxing infusions directly from the harvested flowers. Similarly, lemon balm is an excellent plant to include, precisely because it is known for its sedative and antispasmodic properties.

  • Flowering plants:

Flowering plants, such as marigolds and sunflowers, are equally important for a therapeutic garden. Marigolds, besides being beautiful to look at, have medicinal properties that help in the treatment of wounds and skin inflammation. Sunflowers, with their bright colors, can improve mood and bring joy;

  • Vegetables:

Among the best plants for therapeutic garden, be sure to include some varieties of vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes. All of the easy-to-grow plants can provide immediate satisfaction by harvesting the fruits of one’s labor.

Therapeutic plants such as lavender, rosemary, chamomile, mint, marigolds and sunflowers, along with some simple vegetables, form the ideal basis for a therapeutic vegetable garden. Creating and tending such a garden will not only improve your mental health, but also provide a haven of peace and serenity.

Community gardens: a secret to relaxation

Community gardens are shared green spaces where people grow plants, vegetables, herbs and flowers together. These gardens are often found in urban and suburban areas, and are managed collectively by citizen groups, associations or local communities.

For those seeking gardening as an ally for their mental health, community gardens can turn into an important tool.

In fact, participating in a community garden fosters a sense of belonging and social connection, elements that are fundamental to psychological well-being. Working together with other people to cultivate the land creates opportunities for interaction and collaboration, reducing loneliness and fostering a sense of community. This aspect is particularly beneficial for those living in urban settings, where contact with nature is often lacking and interpersonal relationships are less frequent.

In addition, community gardens offer a peaceful and relaxing environment, ideal for reducing stress and anxiety. The opportunity to “work with your hands,” planting seeds and tending plants allows you to detach your mind from daily worries. Contact with nature and the outdoors encourages the release of endorphins, the so-called “happiness hormones,” which improve mood and reduce cortisol levels.

Among the benefits of community gardens for the mind is also the opportunity to develop new skills and gain practical knowledge. Learning to grow vegetables and flowers, following the natural cycles of the seasons, offers a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. In addition, the community garden can become a place of intergenerational learning, where young and old share experiences and knowledge.

Tips for a healthy and beneficial gardening routine

Integrating gardening into your daily routine can be a great strategy for improving your mental health.

But how do you integrate gardening into your daily routine for mental well-being? And which gardening activities are most relaxing? Here are some suggestions for making gardening a beneficial and enjoyable habit:

  • Start small:

Starting with small steps is key to integrating gardening into your daily routine. Devote at least 10 to 15 minutes a day to this activity. You can start with simple tasks such as watering plants, removing weeds or pruning dead branches. These daily tasks do not take much time, but they can have a great impact on your mood and well-being.

  • Choosing the most relaxing activities:

Choosing the most relaxing gardening activities is essential to maximizing the benefits. Among the most relaxing activities are seeding and planting. Direct contact with the earth and seeds, watching seedlings grow, provides a feeling of connection with nature and personal satisfaction. Caring for aromatic plants, such as lavender and rosemary, can also be very relaxing because of their scents, which have calming and rejuvenating effects.

  • Horticultural therapy:

As we have seen, horticultural therapy is another effective way to integrate gardening into your daily life. This practice uses gardening as a therapeutic tool to improve mental health. Participating in horticultural therapy programs, where you work in a group setting and receive guidance from an experienced therapist, can offer structured and targeted support for dealing with stress, anxiety, and other psychological problems.

  • Attention to space:

It is important to create a dedicated gardening space that is easily accessible. A small corner of the garden, a balcony, or even a windowsill can become your green haven. The important thing is that this space is comfortable and inviting, so that gardening activity becomes a time of relaxation and pleasure.

Integrating gardening into your daily routine for mental well-being can also mean involving family or friends. Gardening together strengthens social bonds and provides an opportunity to share positive experiences. Organizing group gardening sessions, perhaps on weekends, can become a recurring activity that everyone looks forward to.

Are there scientific studies that support these benefits?

The answer is yes.

Numerous research studies have documented the positive effects of gardening on mental health. For example, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening can significantly reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while improving overall mood. Other studies have found that gardening can increase feelings of well-being and personal satisfaction, promoting a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

Urban gardens also provide opportunities for socialization and community building, crucial factors in psychological well-being. Participating in a community garden project allows people to build relationships, share experiences and support each other, creating a sense of belonging and social support.

As we have seen, urban gardens and gardening are a valuable resource for psychological well-being. Devoting yourself to gardening could be the key to regaining inner balance and greater serenity in daily life.

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