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The pandemic brought a renewed interest in gardening. Will this health-promoting trend continue?

Introduction by Croakey: Several studies have noted a “global garden boom” during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have sought contact with nature and community, to address food security, enhance social connections, reduce stress, and build resilience and wellbeing, according to the authors of a recent research publication.

Their survey of more than 3,700 gardeners across multiple countries, conducted between May and August 2020 and recently published in the journal Health & Place,  investigated the experiences of gardeners during the pandemic. The findings reinforce “the idea of gardening as an effective nature-based solution that addresses health, wellbeing, climate change and social challenges”, as well as having implications beyond human health for ecosystems.

“By strengthening support for and equitable access to gardens, gardening has the potential to mitigate food insecurity, enhance greenspaces, be a positive determinant of health and provide social supports to address health inequities,” write the authors.

Below, one of the researchers, Dr Jonathan Kingsley, Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion at Swinburne University in Victoria, writes that the survey found some unforeseen benefits from gardening at a particular time during the pandemic. Whether that remains the case is not clear.


Jonathan Kingsley writes:

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to impact not only our physical health but also our social and emotional wellbeing. This is exacerbated by health inequalities that unfortunately persist and have widened in our society.

However, a plethora of academic papers have emerged since 2020 explaining that access to greenspace may offer opportunities to address environmental and social inequalities and determinants of health that exist. One of the most easily accessible forms of connections to greenspaces is through gardens in homes, on nature strips and in parks through settings like community and allotment gardening.

At the start of the pandemic there was a clear drive and interest in gardening evident through the media and internet attention. This was none clearer to any gardener than when seeds were going out of stock in nurseries due to the increased demand for gardening materials. The initial evidence of this boom was improved health, wellbeing, social and food security outcomes for individuals and populations.

Although the data and opinion that gardening had increased and was good for your health and wellbeing, the detail as to why and how gardening changed during the pandemic was unclear. I and other scholars from the USA, America and Australia decided to explore these gardening experiences and perceptions in a recent paper published in Health and Place.

We explored global data from 3,743 participants spanning from experienced gardeners to gardeners who had just started doing this activity during the pandemic. What we found was more people had time to enjoy this leisure time activity due to the inability to move around as much. It gave many people great joy to be able to slow down, relax and escape the pandemic itself. In a lot of ways, the garden space became a sanctuary or haven for people/s to express themselves.

However, some other participants felt they had less time to tend their gardens because of their employment (for example, healthcare workers), lacked appropriate garden supplies or they feared being exposed to COVID-19 by attending their community and allotment gardens. These barriers were not uncommon and sometimes led to unforeseen benefits.

One such unforeseen benefit was people had to learn and to be creative when supply chains were not providing the usual garden materials. People modified their garden practices to cater for these changes and reaped surprising returns like planting new crops and sharing with others to gain the best garden outcomes they could in the circumstances. This made some people reflect on issues about changing food supply systems/chains and food insecurities.

This extra time, ability to be creative and to learn brought communities closer together to talk and enjoy their gardens as a community. This bonding experience was pronounced in the family setting where members of households would enjoy the garden together instead of attending social and work settings outside of their home.

Through explaining these experiences, the paper highlighted the health and wellbeing benefits that gardening offered in the early stages of the pandemic.

As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, it would be interesting to know if gardening remains an important part of peoples’ lives.

Previously at Croakey

A call to cultivate mental wellbeing through community gardening

Cultivating better health, wellbeing and societal outcomes through community gardening


See Croakey’s archive of articles on the environmental determinants of health

 

 

 

 

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