Growing Happiness With A Garden

As you may well know by now I am all about finding activities that increase your happiness, save you money, and provide a net benefit to the world. Recently this pursuit lead me to the world of gardening, in no small part because the house my wife and I just bought already had a few raised garden beds.

After a few weeks of gardening I started noticing that I was actually really invested in the plants we were growing. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on but it was obvious I was enjoying the process. After doing a little research I found out there were a lot of reasons gardening tends to make us happier.

First, and probably most obvious, gardening promotes physical activity. When we go outside and garden we are engaging in some physical activity by squatting, bending over, walking around, etc. Given that gardening is also a mostly outside activity you will likely find yourself being put in the way of a gracious amount of sunshine. Between the exercise and sunshine you can expect to burn upwards of 100 calories a day and get a healthy does of vitamin D.

Another thing that should be obvious is that growing food encourages you to eat healthier. The last two weeks my wife and I have each eaten at least one, if not two, large salads with lunch and dinner. Why? Because so much of the stuff is growing that we would feel bad if we weren’t making use of it. We have also begun to pawn the extra lettuce off on friends and family. It would be really hard in my estimation to grow food that is relatively worse for you than what you get at the grocery store. Besides that, there is absolutely no way to get fresher food than pulling it straight from your garden.

On the less obvious side, research suggests there are bacterium in the soil which may encourage the production of serotonin. From what I gathered, our brains will produce this and other chemicals as part of a peripheral response to immune activation. Pretty cool, right?!

What about the cost-benefit of gardening in terms of cold hard cash? It is a bit more muddled there. The fact is that any garden has start-up costs which are very real. If you intend on gardening year in and year out those costs will be spread out over the years making the cost less prohibitive. We got lucky that the house we purchased came with a few existing garden beds so that cost is effectively baked in to our mortgage payment.

I will put forward a few considerations if you are concerned about the costs of gardening. I would first encourage you to start small and begin your plant growing from seeds. You can pick up an enormous amount of seeds for surprisingly little money. For example, my wife and I picked up seeds for between $2 to $6 per packet and those packets contained between 10 to 100 seeds. Second, pick plants that are at the intersection of plants you already eat and produce a lot. Finally, think about all the expense you are exerting in cutting your grass and the shear waste of that land not being used for meaningful production.

Also, check out the video below by the The Urban Farmer. If you are really enterprising you can turn this into a money making venture.

Beyond the idea that you could improve your own well-being both physically and financially there is the fact that growing your own vegetables is a good way to reduce carbon and the need for all of that unnecessary packing at the grocery stores. According to the Climate Action Business Association (CABA), 8% of the average U.S. citizen’s carbon footprint comes from the food we eat. Of that 8%, 28.5% is from transporting the food alone. Also, when you are pulling lettuce straight from the ground you aren’t picking it up in an over sized plastic container. All around growing food in your own yard saves on the waste you would otherwise be creating by buying your food from a grocery store chain.

Finally I want to leave you with what we have planted so far and a few pictures.

  • Various leafy greens (lettuce, kale, chard, etc.)
  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Banana Peppers
  • Beans
  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Rhubarb

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