Recently, amid the COVID 19 pandemic, some people have found themselves with more free time than they have had before. Mass shutdowns, remote learning, and working from home have resulted in people spending much more time at home. In response to being at home so much, people have been picking up new hobbies to keep themselves occupied; if there ever was a time to start a new hobby, this last year was the perfect time to do so. One of these hobbies I’ve noticed within my own neighborhood has been the creation and maintenance of small-scale and personal gardens.
Personally, I have been gardening with my family for years, and love to do it, so it’s been really nice to see a few gardens pop up in the yards of my neighbors. “Whether they’re motivated by a need for self-sufficiency, a desire to stay out of grocery stores or a loss of confidence in the food-supply chain, first-time gardeners are sprouting across the region.” It is likely that you have noticed this as well, so what is all the hype about?
With the amount of time people have been spending isolated from friends and family, it is important to focus free time on productive and rewarding practices. Small scale gardening (community or personal) has many far-reaching benefits, including a healthier growing/production process, an opportunity to create a social space while maintaining a socially distant manner, and the overall sustainability of growing your own food.
Most people have little idea what exactly what went into the production of their food. The problem with buying produce from a grocery store is that commercial or industrial farming operations often use herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. and other synthetic processes, the types and quantities of which are mostly unknown to the customer. These processes not only endanger the consumer, but also the farmers, grocery store workers, and the environment. Even with evaluation from federal agencies, “many EPA-designated tolerance levels may not fully account for a range of health risks, such as hormone (or, endocrine) disruption,” and additionally, “pesticides that are sprayed on crops leave a residue on the dead plant material that settles into the soil and can run off into waterways or leach into groundwater.” Many of the detrimental effects of commercial and industrial farming are unknown or can go unregulated for years. A good way to avoid this uncertainty is to use regenerative practices in your own garden.
There are physical health benefits to planting, growing, and caring for your own garden. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, “moderate-intensity level activity for 2.5 hours each week can reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.” Gardening fits this recommendation as a moderate-intensity exercise that can assist in achieving this 2.5-hour weekly goal, while getting some fresh air and sunlight.
There are also mental health benefits from long-term planning and goal setting that come with planting your own garden. Interaction with “nature has been shown to be restorative to our minds, cognitively and emotionally,” by improving our focus and attention, reducing mental fatigue, lowering stress, reducing the risk of dementia, and much more. These mental health benefits can assist anyone, especially those with mental disabilities that affect one’s attention and mood, such as ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and more. “A recent survey by Mintel for the charity Thrive, which enables social and therapeutic horticultures, showed that among people with disabilities, a quarter listed gardening as a hobby. Two-thirds of the respondents owned a garden and 87% had access to a garden that they thought was beneficial to their health.” It is important, especially nowadays, that we find a group of people we share common values with and connect with them in beneficial ways.
COVID 19 has not only shown us the importance of finding a productive hobby, but also the importance of staying connected with our friends and family and within our communities while maintaining a socially distanced manner; gardening is great way to do both. It is an activity that can capture the attention and imagination of all; young and old, is an activity that allows us to connect with people we may not have otherwise. Additionally, sharing seeds, crops, and techniques creates an open dialogue and an educational opportunity, especially generational knowledge, for all involved. Small scale gardening creates a safe space for social interaction while remaining safely distanced from one another in the amidst of the pandemic.
For more information on starting a small-scale garden in Albuquerque, including how and when to prep the soil, recommended plants and flowers, varying techniques (in-ground or raised beds) pest management, and other tips and tricks, check out this gardening guide.
-Posted by Matthew