No question: People in the United States love to garden!
In fact, the 2018 National Gardening Survey found that over 75% of Americans participate in some form of gardening or landscaping activity. Pretty impressive!
And that high number is especially good news when you stop to consider the importance of gardening- not just for beautifying our homes, but for actually changing the world!
Let’s take a closer look!
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Now that you’ve had an overview of the importance of gardening, let’s look at each point in a little more detail:
Preserves a Variety of Plant Species
Currently, the global food supply depends of a mere handful of crops.
Smithsonian Magazine gives us the exact numbers: 12 crops are the basis of 75% of the world’s plant-based food.
Why is that a problem?
Corporate farms plant massive fields of just a single plant variety in hopes of achieving uniform growth, appearance and taste. Growing an extremely limited number of crops is a perfect illustration of putting all your eggs in one basket.
Think about what might happen if we lost a significant portion of just one of those crops for a year. It could happen due to any number of reasons, including these:
- Widespread natural disaster
- Large-scale insect attack
- Sustained unfavorable weather patterns
- War or human conflict
Just like diversifying your assets is foundational for reducing risk, biodiversity is key to maintaining a healthy, sustainable food supply. Even if one crop takes a severe hit and loses an entire harvest, you have another one to fall back on.
Why is Gardening Important for Plant Biodiversity?
As an independent grower, you have the freedom to choose exactly what you want to grow, down to the specific variety. Want to plant a mix of high-yield hybrids and rare heirloom varieties? You can!
And not only are the lesser-known heirlooms typically tastier and more beautiful than modern hybrids, but they’re also key to maintaining plant genetic diversity.
To learn more about the role of home gardeners in plant biodiversity, visit the Seed Savers Exchange website. It’s a truly outstanding resource that I heartily recommend!
Reduces Stress on the Food Supply Chain
In the western world, many of us have come to take getting all the food we need from the grocery store as a given. And this model has worked fairly well for the better part of the last century.
However, getting food from the farm to your table involves countless steps that each have vulnerabilities. The fact is that the American food supply chain is a delicate web that could break on almost any level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought these supply-chain vulnerabilities into sharp focus. In large part, the shortages in stores were not due to an actual shortage of food itself, but rather due to problems getting that food to the store shelves.
Panic buying was another massive issue. Since people are almost completely reliant on getting their daily goods from the store, it’s not hard to see why many felt the need to buy what they could when they could.
Why is Gardening Important for Food Security?
It’s true that most gardeners lack the space and time to grow enough food to fully support themselves and their families.
But any food you can produce for yourself increases your independence and reduces strain on the traditional food supply chain.
You might also find that you have a bumper crop of certain vegetables or fruits, allowing you to extend your harvest through canning, freezing or drying.
You can also use your harvest to share with friends and neighbors. And some food pantries may accept surplus home-grown produce, giving you the chance to help meet the needs of food-insecure people in your own community.
RELATED: Vertical gardening systems can be the perfect way to capitalize on those odd spaces and produce even more edible crops!
Fresh, Nutrient-Dense Food = Better Health
Anyone who’s eaten a sun-ripened tomato fresh from the garden knows that you just can’t beat home-grown flavor!
But taste isn’t the only thing that’s better at home.
An expert referenced in the New York Times shared that produce can lose as much as 50% of its Vitamin C content just seven days after harvest.
And keep in mind: Some produce can take far longer than seven days to go from field to grocery store!
Why is Gardening Important for Health?
It’s pretty easy to see! Eating your produce the very same day it’s picked offers the highest nutritional content possible.
The health benefits of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables every day are fairly common knowledge. Our bodies need vitamins, minerals, proteins and more to:
- Produce healthy new cells
- Repair damaged tissue
- Fight off disease-causing organisms
- Generate energy for daily activities
- Basically, just keep on living
The more people we have growing and eating nutrient-dense food, the healthier the population in general becomes.
In time, this can help reduce strain on our health care system and lead to overall better quality of life for many.
Can Use Fewer/No Chemicals
To protect their genetically narrow crops, corporate farms have no choice but to use artificial fertilizers and harsh chemicals to control insects and weeds.
These chemical treatments certainly do the trick, but concerns remain about the possible long-term effects on people and the surrounding environment.
Why is Gardening Important for Chemical Choice?
When you manage your own independent garden, you have the freedom to choose which chemicals you use, or none at all.
You have the time to explore natural alternatives if you want, perhaps trying a few different remedies until you find that one that works.
And of course, you’re also free to use commercial chemicals if you choose. Remember that even if these chemicals do carry a risk, you’re using them on a far smaller scale than corporate farms do!
Helps Friendly Pollinators Make a Comeback
To supply the food that the world needs through large-scale growing, you need to convert massive amounts of land from its natural state into farm-friendly bare soil.
This often means the devastation of countless creature habitats. While many larger animals have also felt the negative effects of corporate farming, the insect population seems to have taken the largest hit.
According to Yale School of the Environment, scientists estimate that insect populations have decreased by almost half in the 40 years. Many of these insects are responsible for pollen transfer between plants, which is critical for seed reproduction.
And the U.S. National Park Service lists habitat loss as one of the key factors in pollinator decline.
Why is Gardening Important for Pollinators?
You have the opportunity to create a new mini-habitat for bees, butterflies, bats and other friendly pollinators right in your own yard!
These little creatures need plenty of flower nectar to feed on, and nooks and crannies to hide and build their nests in. If space and local regulations allow, you may even want to start your own beehives.
With your plant selection, landscaping and bird/bat houses, your yard can be a refreshing wayside or a season-long home to friendly pollinators of all shapes and sizes!
Teaches the Next Generation
Throughout history, children and adolescents often learned proper gardening and farming techniques directly from family members or another mentor.
These young people of old got a first-hand look at the hard work and skill that goes into food production. And they also had a one-on-one training partner to help them master the art of growing for themselves.
In modern times, the vast majority of the younger generations haven’t had the opportunity to witness the connection between the earth and the food on their plates.
By and large, they’ve only grown up seeing food purchased from a store or restaurant. They may have learned about plant growth and development in school, but never seen it for themselves.
Nurturing plants from seed to harvest is key to human survival. But large corporate farms have no time and very little interest in teaching future growers sustainable practices.
So if they won’t, who will?
Why is Gardening Important for the Next Generation?
As a home gardener, you’ve experienced the mental, physical and emotional benefits of working with the earth, and the satisfaction of seeing a bountiful harvest of food or flowers.
Why not share your hard-earned gardening wisdom with someone younger? A few examples include:
- Your children
- Your grandchildren
- Neighbor kids
- Disadvantaged children in your area
You’re a home gardener, and you have a gift to give!
Not only in the importance of gardening, firsthand knowledge and practical skills, but in willingness to invest your valuable time in the upcoming generation.
Just don’t be surprised if your investment yields an even more bountiful harvest than any garden you’ve ever grown!
More than just a fun hobby, the importance of gardening extends beyond you to the people, environment and animals of today and the future.
Our gardens matter, so let’s get out there and keep growing!
How has gardening changed you for the better? Do you have any experiences or memories you’d like to share?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments!