April is National Garden Month

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April's showers and flowers make it the perfect month to celebrate gardening. During National Garden Month, reflect on all the benefits gardening brings beyond the fruit, produce or flowers that grow, says a University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

Growing your own food

Food is a necessity that can take a big bite out of a family's budget. Growing a vegetable garden can help save on the grocery bill, says David Trinklein, associate professor of horticulture for MU Extension.

"The National Gardening Association estimates that a well-maintained vegetable garden yields an average return of $500 per year," Trinklein said.

A study by Burpee Seeds found that $50 spent on gardening supplies can produce $1,250 worth of produce annually. That's a twentyfold investment return.

"Simply put, if vegetable gardening does not reduce your food bill, you're doing something wrong," Trinklein said.

Cultivating a healthier you

Gardening is great physical activity. All that digging, hoeing, raking, weeding and planting works muscles and burns calories.

"The average gardener burns between 300 and 400 calories per hour while gardening," Trinklein said. "That same person would have to walk about four miles at a brisk pace to use up the same number of calories. Someone once remarked, 'gardening is a labor of love; a treadmill is just labor.'"

Gardening is also a great way to put more healthy foods on the table, he adds.

"The availability of fresh, inexpensive produce from the family garden can help you develop and maintain good dietary habits."

Cultivating a happier you

Gardening allows people to connect with nature and other living things. It tends to restore spirits, make people feel good about themselves and relieve stress, Trinklein said.

"Working with plants tends to divert one's attention from other trials and tribulations of life and affords people the opportunity to achieve a level of serenity and enjoyment that often escapes us in our technologically based society," he said.

Growing a greener world

The plants in a garden reduce the carbon footprint when they take in carbon dioxide to manufacture food. They also help reduce soil erosion.

"Gardens slow rainfall runoff, allowing it to infiltrate more slowly into the ground," Trinklein said.

Growing stronger families

Gardening can strengthen families and communities. Working in a garden is a great way for generations of family members to be together.

"The most valuable 'produce' from a garden just might be the joy derived from working with family and friends," Trinklein said.

Planting seeds of knowledge

Gardening is a learning experience for young and old alike. It can help children and adults develop curiosity about nature.

"It is a great way to teach youngsters the joy that can come from work and that positive results are not always instantaneous in life," Trinklein said.

Gardens and gardening remind individuals of everything that is good about life -- the beauty of nature, the pride and sense of accomplishment for having done something productive.

"For those of you who are gardeners, best wishes for the upcoming growing season -- relish it while it lasts. For those of you who are not, there is no time like the present to start," Trinklein said.

The April Gardening Calendar can be found online at ipm.missouri.edu/MEG/2013/3/April-Gardening-Calendar/, and a community gardening toolkit is available at extension.missouri.edu/p/MP906

For tips for healthy gardening, visit extension.missouri.edu/ecregion/lifetimes/Eighttipsforgardening06.html, and for more information on National Garden Month visit the National Gardening Association website at www.nationalgardenmonth.org/.

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