Healthy Living Blog

Get Growing: Health Benefits of Gardening

Tina Miller, MS RDN Meijer Healthy Living Advisor,




Harvest is not the only reward that comes from gardening!  Planting and caring for your garden, whether it be a small container garden or large backyard garden, provides surprising health benefits.

  • Fitness: Gardening helps to build strength, dexterity, and flexibility. In fact gardening is a great way to get your 2 ½ hours (or more) of physical activity each week!
Calories burned in 30 Minutes


Calories Burned in 30 Minutes
Digging, tilling: 202 Vigorous Weight Lifting: 230
General Gardening: 201 Running/Jogging: 285
Weeding: 182 Biking, Moderate Pace: 195
Planting: 163 Walking: 140
Watering (with hose): 51 Stretching: 90


  • Stress relief: Preliminary studies reveal that gardening can significantly reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Heart health: Just 30 minutes of gardening daily can reduce risk for heart attack and stroke by as much as 30% (even when broken into 15 minute gardening sessions twice each day!)
  • Promotes hand strength and dexterity.
  • Supports brain health: Studies suggest that gardening can help reduce risk for age-related memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 36% or more.
  • Happiness: “Horticultural Therapy” significantly reduces risk for depression.

Pesto Chicken Pasta with Asparagus

Makes 6 servings

8 ounces uncooked farfalle (bowtie) pasta

2 cups cut-up fresh or frozen Michigan Asparagus

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1 (2.25 ounces) can sliced ripe olives, well drained

3/4 cup prepared pesto sauce

3 tablespoons freshly shredded or grated Romano cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse and drain.
  2. Steam or microwave Michigan Asparagus until crisp-tender.
  3. Drain and combine in a large bowl with cooked pasta.
  4. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, onion, and olives.
  5. Gently toss with pesto sauce.
  6. Serve warm, garnished with cheese.

Recipe Source: Michigan Asparagus

Gardening 101

From Meijer Health & Wellness Staff,

There are an abundance of benefits to planting your own garden. Not only will it give you a chance to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption, it will give you an opportunity to try different varieties of produce. Plus, you can have control over the fertilizers and pesticides that come into contact with your food. Another positive advantage to gardening is a chance to teach your children about the origins of the food they eat. And of course, it can help save you money.

Here are few basic steps to help you get started on your garden:

  • Determine the best location. Take sunlight into consideration.
  • Plan the layout and type/variety of plants you want to grow based on what you like to eat. Keep in mind how much space you have to work with and growing conditions.
  • Get your supplies, including seeds, plants, equipment, etc. Meijer has a everything you need
  • Prepare soil
  • Plant (see below)
  • Water
  • Mulch/Control weeds
  • Harvest

It is helpful to have an idea of what and when to plant based on your states hardiness zone. Visit this website for more information. You can find a detailed map and planting schedule for your state.

To start seeds indoors, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Start early – six weeks before late frost.
  • Plant the seeds in trays using a potting mix, not soil (one part each: peat moss, vermiculite, perlite).
  • Scatter seeds over the surface in a thin layer and cover it with soil according to the seed package directions.
  • Cover the trays with plastic and create holes for ventilation. When seedlings appear, remove the plastic.
  • Label each tray so you know what you are growing.
  • Place the trays in bright light and keep them at 65-75 degrees. You can use grow lights and heating mats to help.
  • Water carefully, you can even use a spray bottle.
  • When at least two sets of leaves appear, gradually transfer the plants outside over a period of two weeks. This will help them adapt to the outdoor conditions.

If you don’t have a lot of room, consider container gardening. You can start by planting your favorite herbs and expand from there. Plants that do great in containers include:

  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Greens (spinach, chard, kale, etc.)
  • Potatoes

Choose the largest container you can for the space available and be sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage. Remember to keep the root system/pot depth in mind.  Plan to water your plants often, unless you are using a self-watering container. The soil needs to be well aerated and drained, but still able to hold in moisture.