Sowing Solace



There are many instances from recent history of people turning to their gardens during tough times. During World War II, those at home grew Victory Gardens, private plots meant to relieve pressure on the national food supply. Before that, during the Great Depression, with jobs and money scarce, families grew food out of economic necessity. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, seed and garden center sales increased, as did online searches for gardening how-to tips. That renewed interest may have been sparked by food supply concerns but was also likely driven by a need for new hobbies and habits that could accommodate lockdowns and social distancing.

Need, scarcity, frugality—all valid reasons to start or expand a garden. But tending the soil offers more than food and flowers. There are deeper reasons why people turn to gardening during tough times. Here’s why.

Stress Relief.

Gardening reduces stress in several ways. First, studies have shown that it reduces cortisol, the hormone that controls our fight-or-flight responses. This response happens when you work in the garden and even when you simply sit in it and enjoy your surroundings. As a physical activity, gardening includes stretching, bending, and weightlifting. These movements reduce the physical stress and tension placed on our bodies.

Mood Booster.

Gardening reduces stress and increases feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer and dopamine helps you feel pleasure and satisfaction. Studies have shown this benefit occurs simply by being in nature and surrounded by plants.

Family Time.

Gardening offers a healthy family activity that doesn’t include screen time or dining out. For children, it’s a good way to learn important life skills and it offers the same mood boosting, stress relieving benefits for them as it does for adults.

Essential Vitamins.

Sunlight is one essential source of vitamin D and gardening on a sunny day helps capture that source. This vitamin aids in bone health. It also inhibits cancer cell growth, helps to lower blood pressure, and may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Confidence Builder.

Seeing the results of your labor helps boost confidence in your skills and abilities. It can be gratifying to see your garden turn into something fruitful. It offers a tangible achievement and may give you the assurance you need to expand your gardening skills and encouragement to try new things.

Sensory Immersion.

The feel of dirt between your fingers. The smell of flowers in bloom. The sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. The sight of new life budding up through the ground. Gardening engages all our senses, and it keeps people in tune with their natural surroundings.

Sense of Purpose.

Tending a garden is a commitment that requires maintenance, care, and nurturing. Knowing that you must weed and feed your plants gives you a reason to go outside. Looking forward to harvesting the results provides motivation to keep going.

Starting a garden is easy and can be inexpensive. If you have a yard, carve out a portion for your garden. If you rent or live in a place without a yard, cultivate container gardens in spaces that get sun like a balcony or porch. If neither of those is an option, you can garden indoors using grow lights or self-contained indoor growing kits, easily found online. Far beyond the harvest of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, the mental and physical benefits that you can reap from this green hobby make it an all-around, worthwhile pursuit.

Sowing Solace

Photography by Jay Yuno/E+/Getty Images.

modern gardening

New to gardening? Try these apps to help kick-start a gardening hobby and put you in touch with communities that share your interests.

Garden Answers. One of the most frustrating things as a new gardener is coming across a plant you can’t identify. Submit a picture of any plant to this free app to identify it and learn basic-care tips.

iNaturalist. Vegetation isn’t the only wildlife gardeners interact with. This free app helps you identify bugs, birds, and other outdoor creatures. You can share observations and discuss your findings with others in the app’s community.

Garden Manager. This paid app focuses entirely on growing food. Enter details about your location and garden size, and it will tell you what to plant and when, suggest companion plants, and provide tips and advice.

iScape. Use this app to visualize your landscape design before you ever spend any money or time on the project. It’s a paid app (but offers a free version) for homeowners and hobbyists. The app can also connect you with a professional designer if your project is more than you can manage.

Deborah Farmer