The thing about good gardening is that it should be a largely closed loop system – where there is no real waste. In order to grow healthy plants, you must look after the soil and return the nutrients taken out of the soil by previous crops.
One way to do this is by composting appropriate food waste (except bones), any garden waste and to make sure you have the proportions right so it makes good compost.
There is also a lot of research that demonstrates the fact that gardening is very good for us. Gardens and landscapes have long been designed as sanctuaries from the stresses of life. But beyond the passive enjoyment of a garden or of being in nature more generally, researchers have also studied the role of actively caring for plants as a therapeutic and educational tool.
Therapeutic horticulture has become a recognised treatment for stress and depression.
School gardening programs, which usually centre on growing food, show that students who have worked on designing, creating and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the consumption of vegetables. Research suggests that they also tend to have better attitudes about school, and improve their interpersonal skills, including team work and classroom behaviour.
Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with chronic mental illness, including anxiety and depression.
Another study on the use of therapeutic horticulture for patients with clinical depression sought to understand why gardening programs were effective in lessening patient experience of depression. They found that these types of programs gave people some purpose.
As our population ages, hands-on gardening programs have been used for older people in retirement villages, nursing homes and related facilities. These types of activities aim to keep people engaged and provide an additional social outlet.
Gardening, is also a physical activity. So any type of gardening, whether it is in a home or in a community garden, is an opportunity for physical activity.
So perhaps the saying is true – gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes, strawberries and so on.