10 good reasons to get your hands dirty

10 good reasons to get your hands dirty

By University of Illinois Extension

In our hurry-up, busy world filled with electronic gadgets, where does gardening fit in?

"The gadgets of gardening aren't flashy — a shovel, pruners, hoses and bags of seeds," said Martha Smith, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. "All are simple yet practical and guaranteed to bring satisfaction and sustenance."

A recent National Garden Bureau survey asked gardeners why they garden, and their responses are inspiring. Here are the top 10 reasons for gardening:

No 1: Garden for safe, healthy food

Reports of foodborne illnesses and contamination in foods have been widely publicized. Interest in organic gardening and the availability of organic produce has increased. Consumers are aware of additives and preservatives found in processed foods. An easy solution is to grow your own fruits and vegetables. It's estimated that during World War II, 20 million homeowners had victory gardens that produced close to 40 percent of the fresh produce consumed in the United States. Start your own garden and know that the foods you eat are fresh and safe.

No. 2: Garden for exercise

You can get all the exercise you need in your own backyard for free. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. Mowing the grass is like taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class and hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting. As we age, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. If you have physical limitations, there are adaptive tools to help you get the job done.

No. 3: Garden for beauty

A garden can enhance any outdoor setting. A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Simply adding a container of colorful flowers to a patio brightens your spirits. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade but shelter for birds and wildlife.

No. 4: Garden to learn

You can learn by reading and you can learn by doing. Getting out and working with plants builds your gardening knowledge. Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Plant problems lead to learning solutions. Removing a problem plant allows you the opportunity to try something else.

No. 5: Garden to make money

The love of plants can lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center or a large landscape firm or to owning your own business. Whether growing flowers, vegetables or herbs, there are opportunities to sell your products at local farmers' markets. Landscaping an investment property can add to the resale value by as much as 15 percent.

No. 6: Garden to meet people

Gardeners love to share their gardens and their knowledge. Gardening is a great way to expand your social circle. Whether it's with a neighbor who lives next door or an Internet pal on the other side of the world, gardeners love to talk about plants. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs and sharing surplus plants is an easy way to share information, ask questions and get involved.

No. 7: Garden to be creative

Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. The serene contemplative mood of a Japanese garden or the romantic feel of a cottage garden — let your creativity flow. Try something new every season. How about a new annual or a new spring-blooming bulb? Who knows, it may become your all-time favorite plant.

No. 8: Garden to win

For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off their skills. County and state fairs provide an opportunity to show everyone the giant pumpkin, beautiful bountiful beans or the perfect zinnia. 4-H clubs promote gardening, offering educational opportunities for kids and a healthy avenue for recognition.

No. 9: Garden for emotional needs

Gardens play an important part in our well-being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. A beautiful bouquet can lift the spirits. Pulling weeds can be a great stress reliever. A healthy harvest provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success. Gardening builds confidence.

No. 10: Garden for lasting memories

Gardening is a great activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren — the gardeners of tomorrow. Memories of past gardens and gardeners are cherished. Help build these memories for the next generation. Today's kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant in Grandpa's garden.

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