National Gardening Week: 23-30 September

Kiwis just love their gardens and when it comes to spending recreational time, watching the footy and fishing loses out to getting into the garden.

According to a new survey undertaken by Yates to celebrate the inaugural National Gardening Week, 67% said they would rather be gardening than fishing and 60% opted for getting into the garden over getting in front of the game. However, hitting the sack with their partner was more appealing than getting into the garden and digging up a sack of potatoes (77%).

71% of those surveyed said their garden was their happy place while nearly half (47%) turn to gardening to relieve stress and 22% said it had helped alleviate depression.

The happiest gardeners in the country are those in Northland (50%), followed by Otago (43%), Auckland and Wellington (42%) and Canterbury gardeners are the least happy (35%).

Fiona Arthur from Yates said the power of gardening should not be underestimated.

“Gardening on a small or a large scale can be done by people of almost any age or ability. We know that connecting with nature is good for our mental and physical health. Apart from the well-known physical benefits of gardening, many studies have shown that spending time in nature, whether in your garden or in the bush, leads to reduced stress, increased cognitive ability and overall calming effects.”

A Dutch study 1, published in the Journal of Health Psychology and undertaken by Leiden and Wageningen Universities have provided key experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress. It showed gardening led to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, and positive mood was fully restored after gardening.

While the Garden City (Christchurch) tends to have the largest gardens, they slip behind the City of Sails (Auckland) and Wellington when it comes to being the most passionate gardeners. Females are more passionate about gardening (60%) than the blokes, some of whom see it as a chore that has to be done.

The greatest motivation for gardening is to keep up with the Joneses and have the best garden in the street (57%). While close second is to have fresh home grown vegetables (52%).

Nine in ten New Zealanders believe children should be taught how to grow vegetables and 94% believe eating home-grown vegetables is better for your health. Gardening was considered to be an invaluable life skill by 83% and it was thought having a good knowledge of gardening could help families economically through growing their own fruit and vegetables.

Entomologist, conservationist and keen gardener, Ruud Kleinpaste said teaching children how to garden sets them up for life.

“It is becoming a fading skill with many of today’s kids not knowing what a seed is, or where potatoes come from. As our lives get busier and more complex, the art of gardening becomes more important. Producing food is one obvious benefit but caring for a plant can teach children about responsibility as well as science, nature and nutrition. Taking time to learn the basics of gardening brings so many rewards.

“The whole culture of biology and ecology, which is an integral part of growing plants, should become a much more important part of the curriculum, and not just for primary schools but throughout secondary schools.”

The survey reinforced Kiwi culture and New Zealand’s enjoyment for outdoor living at home. Kiwis’ biggest garden fantasy is not to have George Clooney or Scarlett Johannsen appear in their garden, but to have an amazing outdoor entertainment centre and a perfect looking garden (63%). The swimming pool took a back seat to having a fully stocked and loaded garden shed.

However, Lisa Carrington was the number one New Zealand celebrity gardeners would like to spend a day in their garden with, closely followed by Richie McCaw.

Gardening is not only a great way to stay physically and mentally fit but gardens are an important asset when selling a home. 61% of people said they believed a great garden added more value to a home than either a home theatre room or a swimming pool.

National Gardening Week aims to foster a love of gardening with a focus on growing not only plants but friendships, good health, strong communities and closer connections with nature.

New Zealanders are encouraged to celebrate National Gardening Week and improve their health by digging in the dirt and planting something—whether it is a potted herb for the kitchen windowsill, a vegetable in a community garden, or a flower to add more colour and beauty to your space.

To kick off National Gardening Week, Yates is giving a free packet of seeds to everyone who registers online at

10 things to do during National Gardening Week:

  1. Plant some vegies, flowers or herbs
  2. Feed your plants to get them ready for the Spring growth spurt
  3. Volunteer for a local replanting programme
  4. Join your local garden club
  5. Visit your Botanical Gardens
  6. Lend a hand in your community gardens
  7. Contact your local school to see if you can help with their gardening programme
  8. Talk to your children/grandchildren about what is happening in your garden
  9. Share some produce or flowers from your garden with a neighbour, friend or a group in your community
  10. Take time to sit in your own garden or a public garden, close your eyes and breathe deeply!

1“Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress”

Agnes E. Van Den Berg

Wageningen University and Research Center, The Netherlands and Mariëtte H.G. Custers,

Leiden University & Wageningen University and Research Center, The Netherlands

Published online before print June 3, 2010, doi: 10.1177/1359105310365577; Journal Health Psychology, January 2011 vol. 16 no. 1 3-11