How Gardening Boosts Your Well-Being from the Ground Up

The health benefits of gardening may be a reason to nurture your green thumb.


Gardening gets us moving, fills our lungs with fresh air, is naturally meditative, and can be deeply nourishing, both literally and figuratively. But research also shows that in getting some dirt—with its bacteria and other microscopic denizens—under our fingernails, we may also boost our gut health.

The gut has earned the nickname “second brain” among some experts. Much of that is thanks to the 300 to 500 different types of bacteria, along with other friendly microorganisms, that make up our intestinal microbiome. From breaking down dietary fiber to making vitamins K and B7, the microbiome does a lot of heavy lifting in maintaining our well-being. A 2013 study at Oregon State University also found that gut microbes communicate back and forth with the vast number of immune cells that live in our gut, helping to decide when the immune system needs to spring into action—say, in response to invading bacteria—and when it isn’t needed. 

Good for the Gardener

What, then, does gardening have to do with our gut? Soil naturally contains probiotic microorganisms that support gut health. For example, Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium found in soil, appears to aid the release of the chemical serotonin, which may alleviate anxiety…