Gardening Is Good for Your Mental Health and the Planet

Flowering maple blooming in a garden

Guest post by Suzette Chaumette, MPH, Founder and Permaculture Gardener at Food Indy

A woman wearing denim overalls, a purple blouse and a straw hat sits in her garden and holds freshly harvested potatoes in her hand

I started my career in public health 25 years ago and have several more years of experience developing programs for communities based on what the greatest health risks are. These days, I am seeing more and more people struggling to feed themselves, while also feeling the effects of stress and anxiety in their daily lives. My recommendation: Start a garden.

When stress, anxiety, or sadness creep in, being outside or stepping into a garden can offer you some much needed relief. Whether indoors or outdoors, in a big or small space, you can grow lots of food in pots even if you do not have a lot of room. And tapping into your senses—seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, and tasting—is good for your mind and body, especially as you begin to reap the benefits of growing your own food.

Sometimes people say, “I’m not a gardener” or see gardening as just a hobby for older people, but it is for anyone, across the lifespan and can be a beautiful journey of nurturing yourself and nature, promoting sustainability, and reaping the rewards of your time and effort. Whether you have a tiny backyard or a windowsill, gardening allows you to connect with the earth, reduce your environmental impact, and create a tranquil and beautiful space. Let’s dive into my tips for gardening and explore how it can be a sustainable practice that inspires and uplifts both you and the planet.

A woman fills a pot with soil in a backyard garden

Tip 1: Plan to grow native plants to your area

Gardening offers a unique opportunity to foster biodiversity. By growing a variety of plants, you attract beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies, creating a thriving ecosystem right in your own environment. They are particularly important because these plants provide food and shelter for local wildlife and contribute to ecological balance.

Tip 2: Compost your kitchen scraps to create healthy garden soil

One of the ways that I relieve my climate anxiety is to see what I can do around my house every day. Composting is one of those things. By making compost, instead of throwing away food scraps, we can create nutrient-rich soil amendments that promote plant growth and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. Composting helps reduce greenhouse gases by diverting organic waste from landfills and, in the garden, retains moisture in the soil, and minimizes how much we have to water our gardens.

Tip 3: Share your garden harvest

There is so much satisfaction in harvesting your own vegetables, herbs, and fruits from you own backyard or windowsill, then sharing with others. One of the greatest joys of gardening is sharing the abundance with people in my local community. Most people who grow food will have excess produce at one point or another, which can be shared with neighbors, donated to food banks or even sold at farmers markets. Sharing not only fosters a sense of community but also reduces food waste and supports local sustainability.

Tip 4: Create an urban sanctuary

Urban gardening, rooftop gardens, and vertical gardening allow us to transform different spaces into vibrant green oases. More plants and trees improve air quality, mitigate the effects of urban heat islands, and provide spaces for communities to relax, rebuild, and restore.

Tip 5: Do a sit spot for stress relief

A sit spot is a regular practice of sitting quietly in a natural space and watching the world around you. A gardening practice helps. Are there birds or insects flying by, and what do they sound like? What does the breeze feel like on your cheek? Are there clouds billowing by? Is there water nearby? Tuning into your senses can bring calm to the storm of racing thoughts, fears, deadlines, and responsibilities. Be sure to find a place where you feel safe. Next time you are outside, take a moment to pay attention and reconnect with the world around you.

Gardening is an ancestral, cultural practice for feeding individuals, families and communities, and for food sovereignty and connection. Gardening feeds our souls, minds, and bodies. Though we don’t have to grow everything that we eat, a garden gives us the ability to grow our own local, organic produce without wondering what pesticides or fertilizers were used because we can make our own with very easy steps. (Check for more details on making compost.)

As I think about sustainability, gardens are part of the equation because we all have to eat and gardening feels good. Sustain your family with nutritious foods, even if you don’t grow all of your food yourself. Be part of a movement of people taking control of their food. Being food independent—Food Indy—is all about getting closer to your food, for your health and your family’s health.

Potatoes, tomatoes, avocado and greens from an urban garden

For more information about Food Indy, go to where you can find our blog, videos, and more. Follow Suzette Chaumette on Tiktok @foodindy, on Instagram @reducereusesuze and listen to The Positively Green Podcast on Apple Music and Spotify.

May we all find ways to bring the best out of each ourselves and others. Be well.

One Reply to “Gardening Is Good for Your Mental Health and the Planet”

  1. One of the lovely things I’ve found now that I have planted 60 plus percent of the yard in native plants is that they require so little care now and have drawn in so much wildlife. Pollinators start as soon as the snow melts and bird families rotate in and out. We live in a tough area with hard winters and droughting summers so light weeding and a few summer veggies is the majority of our workload while sitting and watching it all change with the season is a constant surprise and entertainment.

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