Benefits of Horticulture and Human Interactions
“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” Mohandas K. Gandhi, World leader, political ethicist, lawyer
“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. ” May Sarton, Poet “
"May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh, global spiritual leader and activist “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher
"The importance of encouraging our children in outdoor work with living plants is now recognized. It benefits the health, broadens the education, and gives a valuable training in industry and thrift. The great garden movement is sweeping over all America, and our present problem is to direct it and make it most profitable to the children in our schools and homes. — Van Evrie Kilpatrick, 1918, in “The Child's Food Garden”
As the above quotes so beautifully proclaim, interacting with nature, whether passively (viewing plants) or actively (gardening, etc.) offers many positive benefits. In fact, the link between horticulture and health and well-being has been scientifically documented for centuries. In 1812, psychiatrist, professor, and Declaration of Independence signer Dr. Benjamin Rush reported that patients participating in gardening activities had better mental health outcomes than non-gardening counterparts.
Many additional papers were published throughout the 1800's documenting benefits of active participation in gardening. More recently, positive links between simply viewing plants through a window or even on a television, movie, or exercise apparatus screen have been reported in peer-review journals. A groundbreaking study in this area was published in 1984 by environmental psychologist Robert Ulrich (Ulrich, 1984) who compared post-operative patients recovering from gall bladder surgery who had views of landscape plants to recovering patients who had the same surgery in the same facility with views of a brick wall. Patients with landscape views had fewer surgical complications, shorter hospital stays, required fewer analgesics, had better moods, and even fewer derogatory remarks by medical staff in their daily records.
Since 1984, dozens of other studies have documented similar positive outcomes resulting from both passive and active engagement with nature and plants. These include improved physical, mental and emotional health; environmental benefits; and community and societal benefits. Recent literature reviews that summarize these findings include:
- An overview of 77 peer-reviewed journal articles (Howarth, et. al., 2020) identified 35 positive outcomes linking physical and mental health and well-being to active and passive horticultural interactions. doi: https://10.1136/bmjopen-2020-036923
-A meta-analysis (Soga, 2016) of 22 studies identified several positive mental health outcomes related to gardening including mood, group cohesiveness, cooperation, pride, well-being, and more. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007 -
An overview of 45 peer-review studies (Shepley, et. al., 2019) identified links between properly designed and maintained urban green spaces and crime, gun violence, and the overall safety and cohesiveness of low-wealth urban neighborhoods. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16245119
- A review of 120 papers (Crus-Piedrahita, et. al., 2020) reported public health benefits from urban horticulture activities in the global North. Thirty-two papers had a specific focus on social cohesion and/or social capital. https://doi:10.1016/j.glt.2020.10.001
-Alizadeh (2019) synthesized research regarding the environmental benefits of urban plants, highlighting their vital roles in combating climate change, cooling urban heat islands, providing habitat, removing air and water pollutants, enhancing soil health, and more. https://www.researchgate.net/deref/https%3A%2F%2Fdoi.org%2F10.1108%2FIJCCSM-10-2017-0179
Enjoy your garden! Enjoy a day in nature.