At first glance, gardening can seem old fashioned. It takes a lot of hard work to garden and many people don’t have time to invest in it, especially when food and flowers are so easy to purchase. But gardening is so much more than that. It’s not just about consuming what you grow — it’s about the growth itself.
Three years ago, I started my first garden with my mom. I don’t remember how the subject came up. It might have had something to do with the four fruit trees that filled our newly-purchased backyard. But whatever the reason, we were thrilled. We began to collect seeds and sprouts in hopes of one day serving a fully organic, homemade meal to my father. It was only when all the tools were collected that I realized why I had put the hobby off for so long.
There in front of us sat an army of grass, weeds, rocks and roots. Our would-be garden was a mess, and the only way to grow was to get rid of all the dead weight holding us back. On the day we started clearing the field, I got several mosquito bites, cut my hand on a lemon tree and hit my head on a wall. Never before had I felt more like a city girl.
But the interesting thing is that I’m not alone in this. Across the nation, millennials are taking up gardening at surprising rates. A five-year study conducted by the National Gardening Survey in 2014 claimed there had been a 63 percent increase in millennial gardeners from 2008 to 2013, which translated to five million more young gardeners within a five-year span.
A more recent study conducted in 2018 says that millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 currently make up 29 percent of all gardening households. Conductors of the study suggest one of the reasons for the increased interest is due to a love for houseplants.
Many articles have been written to figure out why millennials are becoming “plant parents” in increasing numbers. NBC reporter Taylor Davies gave her response in a feature published last year.
“Beyond the nostalgia, millennials may be drawn to greenery because of the mental health benefits that come with fostering our green thumb,” Davies said.
When all the weeds had been pulled and all my cuts were healed, I began to see growth in my garden. It started small. I had planted flowers, fruits and vegetables, expecting none of them to grow. But I watered them every single day, no matter how busy I was with other things, and soon enough there were sprouts.
There is something utterly unique and impactful about watching something grow. One day, I was holding a sunflower seed, which was smaller than half a penny. Then, over the next few days, I watched it sprouted small green leaves. I could watch its growth every single day until eventually, the flower was taller than me.
The growth made me realize that God gives us the ability to create and sustain life. As humans, we can often take life for granted. We’re durable. We can survive a few cuts and bruises. But when it comes to taking care of a plant or garden, where the smallest inconvenience can kill your hard work, you begin to realize how easy it is for a thing to die and how important it is to persevere.
Because of this, gardens are often used as a form of therapy for the elderly, people who suffer with mental illness like depression or anxiety and for spiritual healing.
Therapeutic gardens, also known as Horticultural Therapy, can include mediation gardens that aim to uplift and heal the spirit, memory gardens ideal for people suffering with dementia and restorative gardens meant for those with mental illness, among others. These gardens can be found nearly anywhere from schools to hospitals, to designated city areas and prisons.
The National Garden Club serves to promote the learning and civic engagement of gardening across the U.S. They say, “Therapy gardens are designed to promote action. They encourage people to actually do the work of gardening as a form of therapy or treatment.”
It is hard to say in today’s world, that is so full of chaos and disorder, that gardening can make everything better. It can’t. But it can help. For some, gardening may be the first step forward towards a better and brighter future. It can uplift a person’s spirit in unpredictable ways and provide comfort and motivation for troubled times.