A recent survey of gardeners yielded the top 10 reasons people garden, said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Martha Smith.
The top reason was to grow safe, healthy food. Widely-publicized outbreaks of foodborne illness and a growing awareness about issues such as preservatives and pesticide have driven people to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Second was gardening for exercise. “Studies show an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women and almost 400 calories for men,” Smith said. Activities include walking, stretching and lifting weight. Adaptive tools allow people with physical limitations to participate.
Gardening for beauty is next on the top 10 list. A garden, Smith explained, can enhance any outdoor setting, and some plants offer shelter for birds and wildlife.
“Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed,” she said.
Number four was gardening to learn. Gardeners find the more they learn about gardening, the more they want to know, Smith said.
Gardening to make money was fifth on the list. Gardeners may find work at garden centers or landscape firms, or may start their own plant-based business. There are opportunities to sell flowers, vegetables and herbs at farmers markets.
“Landscaping an investment property can add to the resale value by as much as 15 percent,” Smith said. “This curb appeal could make the difference between your house selling or not.”
The sixth reason for gardening is the opportunity it provides to meet people.
“Gardeners love to share their gardens and their knowledge,” explained Smith. “Whether it’s with a neighbor who lives next door or an Internet pal on the other side of the world, gardeners love to talk about plants.”
Coming in seventh was creativity. Many gardeners find an outlet for self-expression in designing their garden.
For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off their skills, Smith said. Others garden to fulfill emotional needs.
“A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life,” Smith said. “A beautiful bouquet can lift the spirits. Pulling weeds can be a great stress reliever. A healthy harvest provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success. Gardening builds confidence and self-esteem.”
Finally, lasting memories provide an attraction for some gardeners. Gardening is an activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, Smith said.
“Today’s kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant in Grandpa’s garden.”