This article was originally featured on Conversation.
As lockdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus went into effect in the spring of 2020, reports of a global gardening boom emerged, with plants, flowers, vegetables and herbs sprouting in backyards and on balconies around the world.
Data backs the narrative: An analysis of Google Trends and infection data found that country-by-country interest in horticulture peaked from Italy to India during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, as The infection itself was at its peak. ,
Why do so many people find themselves drawn to the earth in times of crisis? And what kind of impact did gardening have on them?
In a new study conducted with a team of environmental and public health scholars, we shed light on the extent to which gardening became a coping mechanism in the early days of the pandemic.
Even as restrictions related to COVID-19 are eased, we see some real lessons in the way gardening can play a role in people’s lives.
dirt, sweat, peace
To conduct our study, we used an online questionnaire to survey more than 3,700 respondents who lived primarily in the US, Germany and Australia. The group consisted of experienced gardeners and people who were new to the search.
More than half of the people we surveyed said they felt isolated, anxious and depressed in the early days of the pandemic. Yet more than 75% also found great value in horticulture during the same period. Whether done in cities or in the country, gardening was almost universally described as a way to relax, socialize, connect with nature or stay active.
More than half of the respondents reported a significant increase in the amount of time they were able to garden. Other respondents found some value in growing their own food, but some felt financially compelled to do so.
Instead, most respondents saw gardening as a way to connect with their community and get some exercise.
People with more personal difficulties due to COVID-19, such as an inability to work or struggle with caring for children, were more likely to spend more time gardening in their free time than before.
Garden as a refuge
In our analysis of written responses to the survey, the majority of gardeners either experienced an increased sense of joy and reassurance or felt more connected to the natural world. It seems to have positive therapeutic and psychological benefits, regardless of age or location.
For many people, gardening has become a safe place – a haven from daily worries. One German gardener began to envision his garden as a sanctuary where “the birds felt even louder.”
“Gardening has been my salvation,” said one US respondent. “I am so grateful that I can surround myself with beauty because of the depressing news COVID brings each day.”
Another German gardener wrote that his garden became his “little safe universe” in very uncertain and somewhat dangerous times. … we have learned to appreciate the hitherto high value of ‘our land, our own refuge’.”
a green recipe
As life returns to normal, work picks up and responsibilities mount, I wonder how many pandemic gardens are already being neglected.
Will any hobby born out of unique circumstances fade into the background?
I hope not. Gardening should not be something that should be done only in times of crisis. If anything, the pandemic showed how gardens serve a public health need – that they are not only a source of beauty or food, but also for healing.
In fact, New Zealand, Canada and some countries in Europe now allow “green prescriptions” to be issued as an alternative to the drug. These are doctors’ instructions to spend a certain amount of time outside each day or month—an acknowledgment of the very real health benefits, ranging from less stress to better sleep and better memory, that venturing into nature can offer.
I also think about the people who didn’t get a chance to plant a garden in the first place during the pandemic. Not everyone has a backyard or can afford gardening equipment. Improving access to home gardens, urban green spaces and community gardens can be an important way to promote well-being and health.
Making sowing, planting, pruning and harvesting part of your daily routine seems to open up even more opportunities.
“I’ve never had time to commit to a garden,” the first-time gardener told us, “but [I’ve] There was such satisfaction and joy in watching things grow. It has been a catalyst to bring about other positive changes in my life.”
Disclosure Details: Alessandro Ossola receives funding from the USDA and CDFA.