By Becky O’Connor

If you’re trying to boost your mood, improve your memory, or make new friends, consider planting a garden. Not only does it provide the immediate health benefit of bringing more healthy foods directly into your life, but hands-on gardening has been proven to increase the amount of fruits and veggies eaten by children and young adults. Youth exposed to and involved in garden-based education and gardening consume more fruits and veggies than their peers. Eating fruits and veggies as a child also leads to healthier eating as adults, reducing the risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

The physical and social aspects of gardening help support overall health and well-being for all ages. For home gardeners, benefits include better nutrition, increased physical activity, reduced stress, and improved mental-health. Mycobacterium vaccae, a soil bacterium in garden soil, when handled, has actually been proven to elevate mood and decrease anxiety.

Even hospitals have made use of healing gardens, and their benefit is currently being explored for veterans and others who have experienced trauma. Gardening education has also been shown to help reduce behavioral problems in schools. And one Chicago housing project found that gardening helped improve concentration, productivity, and feelings of safety and well-being amongst its residents. In addition to adding beauty and bringing people together, gardening at the housing project provided opportunities for diverse groups such as seniors and teenagers to learn from each other.

For more information on starting a garden, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension (716) 652-5400. For information on gardening benefits, visit

Becky O’Connor is the Farm to School Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County