Starting a vegetable garden benefits health, environment

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, December 27, 2023

By Jose Fortuny

Contributing writer

If you are looking for a hobby that is fun, rewarding and good for your health and the environment, you should consider starting a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardening is more than just planting seeds and harvesting produce. It is a way of connecting with nature, improving your well-being, and enjoying the fruits of your labor. 

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Here are some of the benefits of vegetable gardening:

  • You get to eat fresh and nutritious food. One of the main advantages of growing your own vegetables is that you get to enjoy fresh and tasty food that is free of harmful chemicals. You decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food, or use organic methods. You also get to control when to harvest your food, which means you can pick them at their peak of ripeness and flavor. Moreover, you can grow a variety of vegetables that may not be available or affordable in your local market, and experiment with different recipes and cuisines.
  • You get to exercise and improve your physical health. Gardening is a great way to stay active and fit, as it involves a lot of physical activities that work your major muscle groups. Gardening can also help you get enough vitamin D from sunlight, which is essential for your bone and immune health. Just wear sunscreen and protective clothing to prevent skin damage.
  • You get to relax and improve your mental health. Gardening is not only good for your body, but also for your mind and soul. Spending time outdoors in nature can help you reduce stress, boost your mood and improve your memory. Gardening can also provide a sense of accomplishment, creativity, and empowerment, as you see the results of your hard work and care. 
  • You get to connect and contribute to your community. Gardening can be a social and educational activity, as you can share your knowledge, skills and produce with your family, friends, and neighbors. Gardening can help you foster human connections, learn from others, and make new friends. 

Gardening also can help you protect the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, saving water and supporting biodiversity. As well, you can grow native plants that attract pollinators and wildlife, compost your organic waste, and use natural pest control methods. By gardening, you can make a positive difference in your surroundings and the world.

Whether you have a large backyard or a small balcony, you can start a vegetable garden that suits your space and needs. All you need are some seeds, soil, and sun, and you are ready to enjoy the wonders of gardening.

So what do you do today?

At this time of the year, we start planning next spring’s garden. If you have not planted a vegetable garden before, pick a spot, a small spot to begin with so you can try it out.

This is also the time to decide what to grow in the spring, to search through seed catalogs and order seeds. If you check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at, you can find your growing zone. Then look up what grows there and when by using the Virginia Tech Growing Calendar at

If you have questions, you can post them in the Western Tidewater Master Gardeners Facebook page, We answer your questions regularly.