Gardening has been a widely cherished pastime throughout recorded history. Even as far back as Roman times, there's evidence of people cultivating plants for sheer pleasure rather than out of necessity for survival.
Today, gardening is sometimes seen as a hobby of older generations with time to spare, but this is far from the whole truth. Surveys show that around one in three householders take an active interest in gardening, and this spans the entire age range from millennials to those in their autumn years.
But why is it so enduringly popular? Here are just eight of the ways it can bring real benefits to your daily life.
1) Endless Interest
While gardening can certainly be satisfying as a part-time hobby taking up only a few hours a month, most people find it quickly develops into something much more important and enjoyable. There's an endless range of plant species out there to experiment with, and countless individual varieties with specific qualities and quirks.
It's very hard to become bored with gardening. You can grow different plants each year without ever needing to repeat yourself, or alternatively focus on a particular flower family or vegetable group and delve as deeply as you want into your chosen speciality.
2) Grow Your Own Food
Whether you plant a few herbs in containers or cultivate a full vegetable patch, gardening gives you the opportunity to grow at least a little of your own food. The quality will be much higher than anything available in the supermarkets. Your vegetables will be fresher and riper, picked at their best and going from soil to plate in minutes. You'll definitely notice the taste difference this makes.
Added to that, when you grow your own food you'll open up a new world of choice far beyond that found on the grocers' shelves. Commercial fruit and vegetables are usually grown for their shelf life, ease of transportation, and overall profitability. Unfortunately, taste often comes a distant last. Choosing your own crops lets you set your own priorities and enjoy your produce to the full.
And what's more, home-grown produce contains fewer chemical traces than most mass-produced food, and you'll save on your grocery bills too.
3) Better for the Environment
Whichever style of garden you grow, the results will be better for the environment than a paved driveway or a simple, bare lawn. A wider range of flowering plants provides food for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, while shrubs and trees form a habitat for small mammals, birds, and other fauna.
But it's not just animals that benefit: an active garden helps to maintain genetic diversity in the plant world, to the benefit of both your local and wider environment. And if you grow some of your own food, you'll be helping reduce the burden that heavy agriculture places on the planet.
4) Many Health Benefits
Gardening is a great way of staying healthy and active. It's a low-impact form of exercise which can nonetheless help you work up a sweat. Just half an hour of hearty digging is the calorie-burning equivalent of jogging a couple of kilometers, but it gives a much more tangible and satisfying end result.
Gardening also provides time in the outdoors, which can aid sleep and promote mental well-being, while studies have found that regular garden work reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Combine this with the relaxation and engrossing distraction that comes through working with your hands, and the benefits for stress control are clear.
There's even evidence that getting your hands dirty is good for general health. Exposure to the microbes and bacteria present in living soil gives your immune system a gentle but useful boost, helping to stave off colds and other minor illnesses.
And lastly in the health benefit stakes, you can't ignore your garden's demands. While you might let a gym membership lapse, or find an excuse not to go out for your evening jog, a garden never lets you off the hook. You need to keep on top of it, and this is a great way of staying disciplined in living a healthier life.
5) Improve Your Surroundings
However, it's not only the actual activity of gardening that's relaxing. At the end of an afternoon's weeding or pruning, a well-kept garden provides a beautiful place in which to relax and spend time with family and friends. The mood-enhancing qualities of a peaceful outdoor space can't be overestimated.
6) Great for Families
Although gardening is a wonderful way to grab some quiet solitude and time to gather your thoughts, it's just as well suited to working together with children and other family members. The shared effort is a rewarding experience that brings you closer together, as well as providing a great opportunity for teaching kids about nature, biology, and the importance of caring for the environment.
7) Social Aspects
Gardeners are generally a sharing, caring bunch. You'll soon find like-minded people in your community with whom you can swap tips, stories, and even spare seeds and plants. You'll often be invited to formal or informal open days where you can admire the fruits of fellow enthusiasts' labours. Gardening can bring a great boost to your social life.
8) It's Fun
Lastly, few people would convincingly argue they like to mow a lawn, weed a driveway, or tackle the other routine jobs of keeping your outdoor areas neat and tidy. So why not turn the space into something that's rewarding and fun to work with? You may not save time, but you'll enjoy your work far more, and the results will be massively more satisfying.
Getting started with gardening is perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome. You might think the amount of knowledge and time you'll need is off-putting, but it's not as complicated or difficult as it seems. Once you take the plunge, you'll soon find that keeping your garden in good shape stops being a necessary chore and becomes an enjoyable, rewarding part of your life.