Domoguen: The benefits of home gardening

Mountain Light

GARDENING is for everybody except the faint-hearted.

I reaffirm that today after evaluating my home pot gardening activities, expanding as I did from one corner of the house to the other. Both sides, which is the only site available for my gardening activities, receive only two hours and thirty minutes of exposure to direct sunlight.

The balcony of our rented apartment on the third floor is exposed to the sun from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is where I grow strawberries, also in pots. Farming under the sun is naturally better than under the shade. Sunlight is important to plant growth, flowering, and the formation of fruits. Sunlight also inhibits pests, diseases, and the growth of fungus.

Under the shade, fungus in the soil and plants are a real challenge, and pests seem to be active throughout the day. It also takes longer for plants to mature.

That observation stemmed from the tomatoes planted in pots on my side of the 10 feet cemented wall and a tomato plant growing wildly and enjoying the sunlight from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the other side.

The wild tomato bore fruits earlier and has since completed its life cycle early this month. My potted and shaded tomato plants are still alive, battled fungal diseases, and have grown almost 6 feet tall. I notice that they are flowering only now.

As you can see, I have yet to succeed in my challenging gardening condition. I am still learning and exploring the right plants and varieties to grow. I also need to do some adjustments with my potting soil to suit the growing seasons. Last summer, I wanted my soil to preserve moisture. This rainy season I need soil that drains easily.

This image in my mind describes a farm for me -- the feel of the early morning sun on my skin while hiking along the paddies in the rice terraces; the smell of compost blending with the vapor arising from the field of young rice plants; and, the aroma of food being cooked by my grandfather. It is a memory from long ago.

Farming in the rice terraces with an old man, during the freshness of my youth, was difficult but I love the experiences and lessons that it was giving me then.

Today, in my old age and missing the freshness of the brooks and irrigation water; the aroma of the open fields and nature in the mountains; and, the comforting embrace and warmth of the early morning sun, I wonder if home gardening is worth pursuing given that I achieved no spectacular success with my venture thus far.

That may be so but these few weeks, I have found solace spending time caressing the soil, and having it potted and planted. Indeed, besides the lessons that it continues to give me about the plants, soil, water, and sun, home gardening has been an avenue for regular exercise, times of contemplation, and emotional and spiritual balance.

That is not but some empty rumblings and rationalization from an old man. Flipping through the on-line Science Daily today, I came across this recent research news saying that home gardening can boost well-being as much as such activities like biking, walking, or dining out.

Carried out by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Minnesota, the study looked at 370 people who were using a cellphone app called Daynamica, developed by one of the study's researchers, to report their emotional well-being while taking part in any of 15 daily activities.

Published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, the findings of the study showed that of the 15 activities assessed, gardening was in the top five when it came to boosting emotional well-being and had a positive effect similar to that of biking, walking and eating out.

Researchers found that gardening at home had a similar effect on the emotional well-being (or happiness) of people "across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban residents, and it was the only activity out of the 15 studied for which women and people with low incomes reported the highest emotional well-being. The results suggest that household gardens could be key to providing food security in urban areas and making cities more sustainable and livable."

You can access a summary report about the study from the enclosed link below (

The study does validate the current benefits I am getting from my home gardening activities but tells us that the home and urban gardening campaign of Secretary William Dar and the DA's Plant Plant Plant Program all over the country is well thought out -- a good one.


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