pigpen-gardenAlmost as soon as the ground thaws in the spring, I kick off my shoes and head straight for the garden. I love the way the dirt feels between my toes (and all over my face, too).

I think we can blame cabin fever for some of my early spring enthusiasm. But as I sat up to my elbows in the dirt this afternoon, happy as a pig in mud, I realized this is one thing I love about gardening all summer long.

There’s lots more to love about gardening. Here are 5 things:
5 things to love about gardening

I lift things up and put them down

Did you know that a half hour of weeding burns 150 calories? Why go to the gym when you can shovel, rake, plant, dig, and yes, weed your way to fitness!

Good Day Sunshine

I’m sure you’ve read all about the benefits of vitamin D, and how many of us are deficient. Vitamin D helps with the immune system as well as maintaining healthy teeth and bones. If you’re feeling achy or tired, you may be one of many people who need more vitamin D. How does gardening help?

A few minutes a day of sun exposure before applying sunscreen is all you need for your body to make vitamin D. So while you’re out there playing in the garden, you can be cranking out all the vitamin D you need to stay healthy.

Happy and smart

Playing in the garden always makes me feel happy, but I never imagined that the dirt itself might be responsible for that feeling—or that it might even be making me smarter. According to studies, there are bacteria in soil that can cause the release of seratonin. The bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae was used in cancer research to treat patients, who were then noted to have improved mood and cognition. Further research with mice showed a decrease in anxiety, as well as improved maze-running performance.

While I have no interest in mazes, I love the idea that exposure to these bacteria may decrease anxiety and improve concentration. More weeding, please!

Connection with others

While I’m usually gardening by myself—which feels a bit like meditation—the fruits of gardening help me connect with other people. Giving a bouquet of flowers or handful of tomatoes to a neighbor is a great feeling. Sharing plants and bulbs with friends makes all of our gardens more diverse and beautiful. I love that Pat’s irises “live” next to Lynne’s balloon flowers in my garden, and the shared advice of these friends and family members helps me to grow a healthier garden every year.

Food, glorious food

I’ve mentioned before that about half of my garden is planted with flowers—and of course that’s yet another thing thing to love about gardening—but the other half is food, glorious food. Tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, herbs, raspberries, and blueberries…being able to pick them fresh from the garden for a salad (or a pie) is a true delight.

I can’t wait for the zucchini to arrive so I can make some of these…and the berries are so good in this pie. And the tomatoes and cilantro in a fresh salsa? Amazing.

I could probably come up with another 5 (or dozen) things I love about gardening, but I’d love to know what you think. Are you a gardener? What are your favorite things about spending time in the garden?