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Campus & Community

Planting Seeds of Wellness

Stuck in Quarantine, Gardening Sees Growth in Popularity

By Maya Pottiger ’17, M.Jour. ’20

Hands pulling carrot from garden

Photo by iStock

Gardening’s popularity during the pandemic is no surprise, say University of Maryland Extension experts. The activity has clear benefits to our health and well-being.

While trends like Animal Crossing, homemade sourdough bread and funny Zoom backgrounds may wilt a bit after the coronavirus quarantine, one is sure to grow: Gardening.

Mother’s Day weekend signals the traditional start of outdoor planting season, but as anyone who’s recently visited a bustling garden center can attest: People are already restless to get down and dirty.

Experts at the University of Maryland Extension (UME) say that’s no surprise during the pandemic: Gardening has clear benefits to our health and well-being.

“It’s deep in our humanness to want to be connected to nature,” said Jon Traunfield, director of the UME’s Home & Garden Information Center. “It connects you to the soil. It’s very calming for people.”

Microorganisms living in the soil give off an aroma that releases endorphins in the brain, he said. As little as 10 minutes in nature can improve your mental health.

With so much uncertainty and down time, gardening can create a routine through a watering schedule, fertilizer checks and growth monitoring, added Stephanie Mathias, the state Master Gardener coordinator at UME.

As a break from online classes, gardening can serve as a hands-on learning tool for kids.

“Parents are looking for some novel activities to engage kids that gets them away from their screen time and maybe gets them outside,” Mathias said. “Gardening is an absolutely perfect way to engage your kids, especially when everybody is stuck at home together as family.”

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing widespread stress gardening. During both world wars and the 2008 recession, people grew “victory gardens” in their yards in the face of concerns about the food supply. Sound familiar?

Back during WWI and II, farmers had to abandon their fields to fight, Mathias said. In addition, much of the food was being shipped overseas to feed the troops. Today, in contrast, the virus has sickened plant workers or disrupted the supply chain. What hasn’t changed is the fear and worry—and producing our own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one way to confront that, Mathias said.

“It’s something that people can do on their own, and it gives them a little bit of control during this unknown situation,” she said.

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