Gardening History and Benefits

Gardening Badge, Step 1

Springtime inspires many of us to get outside, dig in the dirt, plant some seeds and start gardening. What a great way to spend time in nature. With more people at home with extra time on their hands, there has been a growing interest in gardening!

Join us and learn how many Americans turned to gardening during world wide crises in the past as we explore gardening history. Discover how gardening is good for our mental and physical health. Gather some gardening basics, get the family involved, and in a few short weeks enjoy the literal fruits of your labor!

This post is part of our Gardener Badge. You can learn more about the badge and how you can earn it in the gray box below.

Earn the Gardening Badge

If you are interested in earning the Gardening Badge yourself, you can see the Gardener Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here. Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together!

Step 1 is always focused on research. Look up the topic online, watch videos to learn a skill, or visit your local library.  You can read about the resources and fascinating facts we found below.

Gardening History

Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

Basic Gardening History

  • Ancient Gardening- Archilovers.com reports that the oldest form of gardening is called forest gardening. People began to recognize food producing vines and trees and cultivate them. Ornamental gardens eventually developed for the very wealthy.
  • Ancient Egypt- Avasflowers.net reports that elaborate gardens were planted full of trees and flowers.
  • 2000 BC- Native Americans planted rows of crops for food and medicine. Crops included: corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers.
  • 612 BC- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built.
Have Scientists Found the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?
  • Gardening in the Middle Ages- Gardens became more practical and many grew herbs and other plants for medicine. These gardens were often found at monasteries.
  • 1300’s- Vegetable gardens take hold. These gardens were practical and provided food for families. Gardens evolved during this time and became more formal and included raised beds and trellises.
  • 1500’s- Elizabethan Cottage Gardens become popular. These gardens typically grew herbs, fruit, and ornamental flowers.
Elizabethan Gardens | A Shakespeare Garden
  • 1600’s- French gardens from this time were created to bring order and included symmetrical paths, immaculately trimmed shrubs and organized blooms.
Gardens of the French Renaissance - Wikipedia
  • 18th century Informal Gardens– Gardening became less formal and free flowing. Gardens contained trees, flowers and food producing plants.
  • 1918-1945 Victory Gardens- These gardens emerged during WWI and WWII. They provided a way for people to help with the war effort. We will discuss these gardens in more detail below.

Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens were born from world wide emergencies of the past. During WWI and WWII communities and individuals relied on gardening to feed themselves and the soldiers overseas. According to this New York Times article the victory garden movement began during WWI and called upon all Americans to grow food anywhere they could. These gardens popped up on rooftops, empty city lots, backyards, and fire escapes. Many city parks were transformed into gardens.

During World War II, some 20 million victory gardens were planted in the United States.

Prevention of widespread starvation is the peacetime obligation of the United States….The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.

WWI Advertisement

The Victory Garden returned with the beginning of WWII. Clever media campaigns portraying “pretty girls digging in the dirt” were used to urge Americans to plant gardens. The campaign was convincing and soon Americans were producing up to 40% of fresh vegetables for the country.

Amazon.com: Affiche Prints 2W85 Vintage 1940's WWII War Victory ...

Futurefarmers.com reports that victory gardens provided a much needed morale boost for Americans. The victory gardens gave people a way to feel self-sufficient and make a meaningful contribution during a stressful and scary time. It is hard to not see the parallel of the victory gardens of yesterday with the current coronavirus pandemic. With risks involved with taking trips to the grocery store and possible food chain disruptions in the near future people have been eager to plant home gardens once again.

It is great to see a renewed interest in growing food again. Whether you call it a “Corona Victory Garden” or a “Covid-19 Community Garden” is up to you. The New York Times recently reported a drastic increase in seed and potting soil sales. Even Youtube has seen increased searches for how to build raised beds. Home gardening gets people outside and gives them something to focus on and look forward to. Gardening is inexpensive, can be done while socially distancing, and is a great activity for all ages.

Mental and Physical Benefits of Gardening

I have been maintaining a small home garden for many years. Planting seedlings indoors while it is still cold outside is a welcome reminder that spring is on its way! Planting outdoors does not occur until the end of May in Michigan, but garden planning occurs all year. Gardening also allows me to can and freeze vegetables to enjoy well into the winter.

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.

Gertrude Jekyll

With the rising concerns over grocery shopping and potential food shortages, more and more people are turning to gardening to provide not only food but also stress relief during this uncertain time. This article highlights several mental and physical benefits that gardening provides.

  • Gardening provides a sense of responsibility and purpose. It keeps you motivated to get outside on a regular basis.
  • Gardening keeps you connected to nature and living things. Many of us have been stuck inside during the colder months and gardening provides the perfect excuse to get outside and be present in nature.
  • Gardening releases positive hormones, lowers depression, and reduces anxiety. Fresh air, sunshine, and a little physical labor is good for the soul and body!
  • Gardening keeps you rooted in the present. It can be an escape from worry about the past and future keeping us focused on what is currently happening at hand (planting/weeding).
  • Gardening allows you to be in control. You decide what to grow, when to water, what to weed, and when to harvest. This can be a nice change from all the things that are not currently in our control.

Gardening is how I relax. It’s another form of creating and playing with colors. 

Oscar de la Renta

Gardening Videos and Resources

For more detail on gardening history, be sure to check out this website.

Here is a great list of gardening jokes to keep your kids entertained while they are pulling weeds!

Join us for part 2 of the Gardener Badge as we participate in several online gardening classes including “Smart Gardening 101.” We learn how to select a site for a garden, choose and plant seeds, and nurture our garden into a thriving source of food and flowers.

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