Benefits of Gardening for Teens

Teach your teen how to grow a garden.
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Convincing your teen to step away from the electronics to plant a garden might not be an easy task. But if you provide the opportunity, tools, and encouragement, your teen might learn to love gardening. Whether you have the yard space to grow a garden or there are community gardens in your area, getting your teen involved has several benefits.

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 them from small sprouts up through full blooming beauties.

Whether your teen prefers to grow a butterfly bush, basil or banana peppers, each plant requires sufficient sunlight and water. Your teen gardener gets to experiment and educate himself about what is best for each plant, experiencing the benefits of his efforts over time.

Even an indoor aloe plant or potted rubber tree can be a great long-term "pet" project for your teen – these plants can live for years without requiring a lot of time or attention, unlike the typical house pet. 

2. Gardening is Good for Psychological Well-Being

Plants are often used as a therapeutic tool to help improve mental health. Gardens have been shown to reduce stress and depression and promote productivity. Horticulture therapy is used in many therapeutic programs for teens.

Taking a break from electronics and social media can also improve teens’ dwindling attention spans. Green spaces that involve trees, grass, and plants have been shown to improve 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.

3. Outdoor Time Promotes Exercise

Gardening—even if it's confined to a small plot or a container garden—offers healthy doses of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, even for the teen who generally avoids physical activity. So your couch potato may actually enjoy growing potatoes, or any other kinds of plants, for that matter.

Sowing seeds, planting seedlings, and deadheading flowers require movement (aka exercise). But most teens get so engrossed in their work that they don’t even realize the physical aspect of gardening.

4. Plants Offer a Great Way to Connect

If you're looking for a new way to bond with your aloof kids or to get teen siblings to connect with one another in a way that doesn't involve arguing—think plants. 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

Allow each person to pick a favorite type of plant that grows well. ln your climate, one person may grow tomatoes, another onions, and yet another, geraniums. Research companion planting options as a team effort to pick plants that grow well together or that help one another (borage helps keep tomato worms away from tomatoes, for instance).

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 never experienced such fresh foods. Teach your teen about the nutritional benefits of what they grow and they'll become knowledgeable about making 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.

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Article Sources
  • Kuo, F. E., & Faber Taylor, A. (2004). A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health94(9), 1580–1586.
  • Wolf, K.L., S. Krueger, and K. Flora. (2014). Healing and Therapy - A Literature Review. In: Green Cities: Good Health. School of Environmental and Forest Resources, College of the Environment, University of Washington.