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Gardening for Stress Relief & Return to Joy

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Almost the entire year of 2020 dumped a hot mess of stress on my lap, like many others, so I dove head first into Gardening for stress relief. I focused on growing plants from seeds and harvesting from our quarantine garden.

After a major family emergency plus a pandemic, I turned to gardening as therapy. Dirt Therapy. I needed some kind of stress relief. In my own experience, I truly found Gardening Is the Best Therapy for me.

If you’re here reading this, hopefully that means you’ve grown a pure love of gardening, too!?

Covid-19 quarantine gardening as therapy and stress relief - tray of zinnia seedlings with face mask, shovel, and gloves
Covid-19 quarantine gardening as therapy and stress relief – tray of zinnia seedlings with face mask, shovel, and gloves

Gardeners everywhere seemed to be springing to life during the pandemic. Whether it’s for self-sufficiency, beating boredom, or gardening as therapy for stress, or somewhere in between, I am all for it no matter when or why you decide to start a garden.

Gardening is such a healthy hobby! It’s amazing to see plants grow and what they can do. I love the hybrids that come from our flowers crossing and little plant propagation experiments – the whole nine!

You can find so many great gardening benefits, including the social perks of gardening.

Gardening is happiness dozens of times over! Because I’ve found so much joy from the garden, I wanted to update this post with helpful insights on gardening for stress relief and one of the most peaceful, enjoyable hobbies for all ages.

I’ll share my journey and I invite you to share yours in the comments if you wish. I always love hearing from other gardeners about why they love gardening or how it’s helped them in some way.

Looking Back on Our Quarantine Garden (2020)

Back in 2020, I saw lots of seeds sold out online, potting soil canceled from our Walmart pickup orders, and unbearable shipping delays with gardening supplies on both Amazon AND eBay, at least in my personal experiences. Back then I was ravaging my small stockpile of saved seeds and wishing I did a better job saving. I bought things I knew I could save seeds and grow.

We started strawberry plants from seeds from the fruit. We grew our own lemon trees from seed. It’s AMAZING. I so love gardening.

Back during the quarantine, I was excitedly scouring my fridge, cupboards, and pantry to find things from the grocery store that I could plant.

And, I was completely dazzled by the results!

I remember kicking myself for not sticking that sprig of rosemary in a jar of water before it went dry and moldy in the back of my fridge. 🙁

I also mourned the loss of our annual springtime trip to Lowe’s for plants in the 2020 quarantine. While perfect for my self care, it did not feel truly “essential” at that current time.

Hey 2020, I’ve had more than my 90-day trial, and I want my money back.

I decided to keep that little glimpse into the past, as I think it will be interesting to look back upon when we’re years past the pandemic. Hopefully we’ve got much better things on the horizon.

I’ll take a moment now to send everyone all the healthy, happy vibes and bountiful gardens to look forward to!

Updates for Our 2021 Garden – 1st Year with New Raised Beds

Now that we’re further out of the pandemic and past the quarantine, I’ve done a much better job on seed saving and seed swapping.

Revenge shopping at it’s finest! I bought so many seeds, plants, pots, planters, raised beds, the works – in 2021! I’m sure eventually I’ll share the results of many of those here on the blog. 🙂

Our 2020 quarantine garden was mostly a container garden with fabric grow bags. I thought they were fine but my husband HATED them. He thought they didn’t look nice. I thought they served their purpose.

For our 2021 garden, I purchased four white HDPE raised beds with dimensions of 48 inches x 48 inches. These worked out great!

As always, it’s never enough space… but they were, in my opinion, better than the container garden.

Now it will be exciting to see what our 2023 and future gardens have in store. But if you’re here reading this, I want to make sure you can get as much as I have out of enjoying gardening for relieving stress.

Sunflower in a tie-dye mask / gardening and getting Vitamin D from the sun can help you feel better in cases of mild illness. (Always check with your doctor!)
Sunflower in a tie-dye mask / gardening and getting Vitamin D from the sun can help you feel better in cases of mild illness. (Always check with your doctor!)

Gardening for Stress Relief

Whether it’s your first garden or one of many throughout your lifetime, I invite you to share your own feelings on the therapeutic benefits of gardening and hope you find some value in what I’m able to share.

You may not know this about me. I am a worry mom.

I try not to be, but it’s who I am. So the pandemic definitely impacted my mental and emotional well-being in a big way with bottomless, refillable, unlimited worry.

Just 8 days after the schools shut down, two members of my family got into a terrible accident. Thankfully, by the grace of God and the talented doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, they survived.

This was the most stressful time of my life. They were in the hospital during the first peak of Covid. I was stressed beyond belief worrying about so many health situations, so many what-ifs.

So, I plunged myself head-first into gardening as therapy, growing everything I could from seed. I did it to distract myself from the reality of what our family was going through and knowing I was helpless against all of it.

Honestly, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time in my life WITHOUT my garden. Without those precious seeds growing indoors, seeing what new plant sprouted or how everything was doing.

Beautiful, reassuring signs of life when so much of life was so uncertain!

I felt, however small it might be, that I was making a positive impact on something – creating precious life and beauty in a world of turmoil surrounding me. I knew in my heart that gardening was the best therapy I could find for myself in such a crazy, stressful time when everything was shut down.

Starting a Garden from Seed

Here are a few things I highly recommend if you want to start a garden this year but don’t know where to start.

Mixed Dry Beans for Planting
  1. Join numerous seed swap groups on Facebook. These people are awesome and many will generously trade seeds with you, simply because you are new. You can pop over to the page to see what people need and what they’re offering. Some may trade you seeds for a few postage stamps if you don’t have seeds yet to trade.
  2. Check out Little Shop of Seeds. I love this farm and seed company and have enjoyed amazing germination with almost every seed I’ve planted. (No luck with Lavender, but EVERYTHING else has come up! Out of 30+ varieties. Incredible, really.) I have no affiliation here other than I am just a VERY happy customer and itching to go back and buy more seeds! Check out my list of best places to buy cheap seeds!
  3. Check your existing foods in the home. You can grow from dried beans, seeds within fruit that you’ve bought, some seeds inside veggies, and likely even a few things in your spice rack. Try the paper towel method and have fun!
  4. Team up with neighbors and friends to share seeds. You never know who might be generous enough to throw some seeds your way!

Lots of people seem to be working toward a victory garden or a basic home garden. Here I am wishing we had more yard – a little under a half acre doesn’t seem to be quite enough. So I have some pretty big garden dreams!

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying our backyard garden and working on the blog. We’ve decided to get creative and will be sure to share our fun gardening ideas, tips, and more.

Gardening with Covid During Quarantine

In 2022, I did end up getting Covid-19 after taking care of my daughter when she had it. We’re pretty sure she got it at camp or vacation Bible school. At any rate, we were stuck at home in quarantine for quite some time!

Fortunately, our bodies handled it pretty well and we were still able to do a few things around the house and outside in the privacy and safety of our own backyard.

Once I got sick, the first two days were pretty rough with body aches. After that, I noticed that I actually felt better when I spent some time in the sun. For that reason, I dug into quarantine gardening.

As my husband put it, “your flowers can’t get sick!”

This is based purely on my own experience. Your mileage may vary and you should always listen to your body and your doctor and pay attention to how you feel. I am not recommending gardening during Covid / quarantine for everyone.

But, if you feel well enough, it might be a nice way to pass the time. (:

Watering can with a face mask - quarantine gardening
Watering can with a face mask – quarantine gardening

Gardening for Stress Relief: Final Thoughts

Using gardening as therapy got me through a really tough point in my life. I found so much distraction from the stressful, heart-wrenching things going on that I was able to see past it to something more beautiful.

According to WebMD, gardening offers numerous benefits for mental health.

Important note – gardening should not be used in replacement of therapy. It is more of a supplement to therapy. At the time of the pandemic, everything around us was shut down and I was not yet a therapy patient so this was a good step for me.

Be sure to follow your doctor’s orders and continue with any treatment plans you may have in place! Wishing you all the best!

Some of the things I liked best about gardening for stress relief include:

  • Planting seeds and watching them grow
  • Creating something magical from such tiny seeds and plain soil
  • The awe and wonder of my kids who dabbled in gardening along with me
  • My youngest, 4 at the time, saying goodnight to the plants each night
  • Or when she told the baby lemon trees a story before bed
  • My oldest playing violin for the lemon trees on our deck
  • So many other things! Moments and experiences I’ll hold in my heart forever…

Gardening, While Therapeutic, Does Not Equal True Therapy

All of this being said, although the hobby brings many positive emotions, Gardening Is Not Therapy. If you truly feel that you need to talk to someone, or get some coping skills and tools for your toolbox, please do so. You should never shortchange yourself on feeling and being the best that you can be!

Have you found peace and joy from gardening? Has treating gardening as therapy – dirt therapy, I suppose – gotten you through a tough time?

If you care to share your story, feel free to shout out in the comments below.

By the way, you may also enjoy this post on Gardening Inspirations and how gardeners first got started growing a garden!

Gardeners are some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve met. My intention for this post is so that we can all build each other up with a hobby that we love. Support isn’t just for tomato plants! <3

Wishing you all the good things and positive vibes in the garden and out!

07.18.2022 – Updated to add section on Gardening During Quarantine (while sick with covid). Also added new photos.

02.20.23 – Updated to focus on gardening for stress relief. Added link to inspiration post.

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