Gardening holds significant importance for me. As I have grown my gardening practice through my association with ARCD and its wonderful programs I have found a wide range of benefits that contribute to overall well-being and quality of life. I would use my blog post as a reminder of those benefits for the times that sweating in the garden in the middle of July, legs and hands cramping from pulling the weeds that escaped my vigilant eye two days before (there’s a reason for the saying “kids grow like weeds) has me wrapped in its hard grasp.

Gardening has been linked to numerous health benefits – stress relief, mood improvement, and exposure to sunlight for adequate vitamin D levels. It also provides a form of physical activity and can contribute to improved mental health. Remembering these benefits can be very helpful when caught in the frustration of battling persistent weeds to worry about unpredictable wreaking havoc on your beloved plants. While gardening can sometimes feel like a high-stakes game of green thumb roulette the benefits far outweigh the trouble.

Gardening can serve as an opportunity for families to bond and spend quality time together. It promotes healthy eating and exercise habits and can be a fun and educational experience for all. Remembering this benefit can be helpful as families spend those occasionally stressful times in the garden. Mark and I’s foray into gardening has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride of bonding over who will do what jobs in the garden. His jobs: using the heavy equipment, creating the infrastructure, and creating the plan. My jobs: planting – “plan? What plan?”, wheedling more space for the garden, and claiming that I did NOT plant that many tomatoes, cucumbers or whatever plant we somehow have too many of.

Our “quality time” in the garden often involves passionate discussions about which plants deserve prime real estate in our limited garden space and how so many plants seeded themselves. As for promoting healthy eating habits, well, let’s just say our garden-fresh salads are often overshadowed by the temptation of ordering pizza after a long day of gardening “bonding”.

Truly, though, we love our garden and the wonderful produce it blesses us with. Thanks to the Build It Up Garden program (and other ARCD offerings) we have gained valuable insights and learning experiences. The garden experience is a work in progress and each year our learning and practice are finetuned. The personal growth that arises through the cultivation of plants and the nurturing process contributes to a sense of accomplishment and self-reliance, and the opportunity to engage with this community fosters a sense of togetherness for those times in the garden when it helps to know you are not alone in the battles against the weekends and bugs.

-Susan Rasmussen