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Gardening the way to happiness

By Eleanor Gil Feb. 14, 2024 Gardening—the careful practice of cultivating plants—dates back to 2000 BC in Mesopotamia, where humans gardened to survive. Today, gardening is more commonly a hobby, with hundreds of unique seed packets and saplings lining the racks of many department stores. 

Gardeners reap endless benefits, such as receiving more sunlight and thus more vitamin D and reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Gardening also reduces stress as it provides a chance to focus and spend time alone in nature; neuroscience studies, including one by Princeton University, have shown that connecting with nature relieves anxiety and calms the mind. Additionally, gardening plants for harvest aids in establishing a healthy diet by encouraging greater vegetable consumption of readily available, fresh produce straight from one’s home. 

“We grow cherry, fig and peach trees, brussels sprouts, blueberries and tomatoes, which I water daily during the summer. When I am with my tomatoes, I feel happy and peaceful because I love my tomatoes, and I am so proud and fulfilled seeing them grow—they are almost as tall as me now,” Sophomore Catherine Wang said. 

Besides being beneficial to the gardener, gardening also contributes to environmental sustainability and local biodiversity. Gardening enables an outdoor space to become natural again and rebound, assisting wildlife and providing habitats for all sorts of organisms. For instance, sowing wildflowers will attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and creating a garden pond will attract mayflies and other invertebrates. 

It is important to take incremental steps when gardening because attempting to harvest a large area may be overwhelming and demotivating. So, start with a small plot, and expand over time with success. But before beginning, there are several things to keep in mind. For the basics, all plants need space, the right temperature, sunlight, water and essential nutrients to grow. Therefore, an essential first step is to designate a suitable area to turn into a garden, taking into consideration the aforementioned factors. 

Lyn Kang Art

According to NPR, the soil for plants must also be painstakingly selected because healthy soil means having just the right texture and structure full of microbes for plant roots to ground into. Composting consistently by applying coffee grounds, eggshells, sliced banana peels and other organic matter directly to the soil or burying them a few inches beneath adds further nutrients for plants to absorb. 

From there, it is critical to research and choose the appropriate plant that can thrive given the climate or hardiness zone, the latter of which is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, mapped by the USDA. For example, shrubs can be planted throughout the year, but they are best planted in fall for areas with warm climates so that they can prepare for a spring growth spurt, as advised by the botanical website Garden Design. There are two options when it comes to planting: seeds or transplants, which are pre-cultivated saplings that come in pots. Seeds require more attention and are unpredictable, but transplants are easier to care for because they have already begun to grow. However, it is important to keep in mind that if too many seeds sprout, they may overcrowd and compete with each other for nutrients. As for watering, it is best to water plants during cooler hours at night to avoid evaporation before absorption. 

“I prune my rose buckwheat and cypress and orange trees regularly, especially during the spring and dry weather. For example, with my buckwheat and shrubs, I cut off any parts that are dead, going from the bottom to the top of the plant so that the top is narrower than the base,” Sophomore Keira Vladescu said.  

Gardening takes immense skill, dedication, patience and a sprinkle of luck, but with practice, it is a valuable skill that helps cultivate not only fresh produce but also a palpable sense of joy and fulfillment.


About the Contributors

Eleanor Gil staff writer

Eleanor Gil is currently a sophomore at Leland High and an enthusiastic writer for The Charger Account. She spends her free time cultivating her deep passions for environmental sustainability and renewable energy, neuroscience and psychology, the law, tennis, and viola.

Lyn Kang

artist Hyunsuh Kang is a junior at Leland High School and is the artist . During her free time, she enjoys watching movies, sleeping and listening to music such as pop

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