It is finally the month of May! The birds are chirping and the sun is shining, all I want to do is go outside and play.  But if you are like me, you don’t have as many friends knocking on your door anymore to invite you outside. Though it may be a little harder to find reasons to tear yourself away from the computer screen as an adult, the benefits are definitely worth it.

This month, a few of the I Ctrl Shift bloggers (including myself) have pledged to participate in the David Suzuki 30×30 Challenge. The Challenge seems simple, spend 30 minutes outside every day, for 30 days in a row.  There is a lot of evidence that simply spending time outside can give you more energy, can make you nicer and boost anti-cancer proteins!  However, getting outside everyday is harder than you first imagine, on Day 4 my picnic lunch was rudely interrupted by rain. We encourage you to sign up yourself (it’s NEVER to late) and join in our journey, we will be tweeting from @ictrlshift.


This month we will be talking about gardening, a great way to get outdoors! I have a black thumb. I have tried to grow all the plants that “you would basically have to try to kill” and they have all manage to die. I can imagine however that growing something would be a very rewarding experience, though I have yet to find out for myself. In fact, there are many benefits to people who pick up a hoe every spring.

Stress Relief– A Dutch study found that gardening for 30 minutes can promote relief from acute stress

Self-EsteemResearch from Kansas State University shows that gardening has positive effects on self-esteem and hand strength (which is important in older adults)

Heart Health: Swedish research shows that non-exercise physical activity (such as gardening) is associated with reduced risk of heart attack and stroke in older adults, regardless of exercise habits.

Vitamin D: An Italian study found that regular gardening reduces the likelihood of inadequate Vitamin D status

Brain Health- According to Australian research, daily gardening predicts a 36% lower risk of dementia

Vegetable Gardens have even MORE benefits!

Spare the Air (&Water): By growing your food organically, you can avoid unneccessary air and water pollution

Reduce Food Miles: On average fresh produce in the US travels 1500 miles to your plate, and consumes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy per 1 calorie of supermarket food

Financial Savings: A 2009 study found that the average gardener spends $70 a year on a vegetable garden and grows about $600 worth of vegetables.

And if you have kids, there’s this: children of six who know what “tomato ketchup” is and have no idea what a tomato looks like. Yikes!

GardenDemographicsWho Is Gardening?

Gardening seems to be popular among the older generation, however the recent economic recession has increased popularity of gardening in the US.  This graph from the PEW Research Centre shows the demographics of people who have indicated that they have plans to start a vegetable garden. Gender and age are all generally the same, though much fewer older people are making garden plans. The greatest difference appears to be in incomes, where the wealthiest group is significantly less likely to plant a garden.


Why isn’t everyone gardening?

The top 5 challenges that were identified by those who plan to grow edible plants in 2013 are: time (35.7% ); insect & disease control (30.8%), wildlife control (26.0%), Irrigation (23.6%) and cost (13.0%).

Students at Manchester University attempted to understand why individuals don’t garden. Their findings are on the graph below, and they also found that Time was the biggest constraint for gardening.

Gardening Constraints

Of course this is just an introduction to the benefits and barriers to gardening, and a brief audience analysis. But hopefully it is enough to get you started on your own garden, or encouraging gardening behaviours in your community.

In case you need a little inspiration, I encourage you to read this article about the City of Todmorden, a leader in guerilla gardening.


Alison Carlyle is a #forever student with an environmental focus. In the fall she will be headed to the University of Brighton to continue her education in social marketing in the MSc (Social Marketing) programme. Follow her on Twitter or LinkIn with her.

Photo Credit: Vicki Moore


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