Benefits of Gardening for Teens

Teach your teen how to grow a garden.
Eliz Arline Imagery / Moment Mobile / Getty Images

Convincing your teen to ditch their phone and come dig in the flowerbeds with you may seem like a long shot, but if you provide the opportunity, the right tools, and encouragement, your teen might find they love gardening.

If you're worried about the time or space needed for gardening, know that a big yard is not necessarily required. Many plants—including fruits and vegetables—can grow in containers, on patios, or in community gardens.

Here are some reasons to garden with your teen, as well as some tips for getting started.

1. Plant Care Fosters Responsibility

Whether it’s flowers or vegetables, caring for plants helps teenagers develop responsibility. They also gain a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence as they raise small sprouts into full blooming beauties.

From a butterfly bush to basil or banana peppers, plants require sufficient sunlight and water, but also have individual needs. Your teen gardener will get to experiment and learn what is best for each plant, experiencing the benefits of their efforts over time.

Indoor aloe plants or potted rubber trees can be great long-term projects for teens. Indoor plants can live for years without requiring a lot of time or attention, making them perfect for a family without much outdoor space.

2. Gardening is Good for Psychological Well-Being

Plants are often used as a therapeutic tool to help improve mental health, and horticulture therapy is used in many therapeutic programs for teens.

Gardens have been shown to reduce stress and depression, as well as promote productivity.

Taking a break from electronics and social media can also improve teens’ dwindling attention spans. Green spaces with trees, grass, and plants have been shown to improve the attention spans of children with and without ADHD.

Research shows that spending just a few minutes outdoors, surrounded by grass, trees, and plants can boost a teen’s ability to focus and concentrate. Have your teen help weed the garden, prune the shrubs, or water the plants— they might find they can concentrate better when they get back to work.

3. Outdoor Time Promotes Exercise

Gardening (even if confined to a small plot or a container garden) offers healthy doses of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. These benefits are especially good for teens who generally avoid physical activity. You may find that your couch potato enjoys growing actual potatoes (or another plant).

Sowing seeds, planting seedlings, and deadheading flowers require movement (which translates to some exercise). Teens are likely to become so engrossed in their work that they don’t even realize the physical aspect of gardening.

4. Plants Offer a Great Way to Connect

Plants can be a great tool for bonding with aloof kids or to help teen siblings connect in a way that doesn't involve arguing.

Dedicate a small portion of the yard (or several large plant pots if in-the-ground space isn't an option) to a family garden. Have each family member pick a favorite plant that grows well in your climate. One teen may grow tomatoes, another onions, and yet another, geraniums.

Emphasize a team effort by picking plants that grow well together or that help each other grow (for example, borage helps keep tomato worms away from tomatoes).

5. Growing Food Encourages Healthier Eating Habits

Teens that grow their own food—even if growth is limited to one tomato plant in a container on the patio—are more likely to enjoy eating healthy. Tasting the fruits of their own efforts often inspires them to eat more of the items they grow themselves.

Homegrown tomatoes or raspberries straight off the bush can be amazing treats for teens who have put in the effort to grow them.

Teaching your teen about the nutritional benefits of the plants they grow will empower them to make wise (and tasty) food choices for life.

A backyard garden is also an excellent way for a health-conscious teen to ensure what they eat is organic and to know the source of their food.

Make It Fun

If gardening becomes a horrible chore that no one wants to do, your teen won't gain much from his gardening experience.

Keep it fun and interesting. For example, allow your teen to try to grow something complicated, or have them grow the ingredients needed to make pizza or salad.

Teens will reap the benefits of gardening, from improved self-confidence to lessons in healthy eating, for the rest of the lives.

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Article Sources
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  1. Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysisPrev Med Rep. 2016;5:92‐99. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007

  2. Rucklidge JJ. Exposure to green spaces as a modifiable risk factor in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorderLancet Planet Health. 2019;3(5):e200‐e201. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(19)30074-9

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