Attention all beginners, apartment dwellers, and 20-somethings: gardening is cost-effective, safe, healthy, practical and downright fun.

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Tomato plants in pots

These days, it can feel tough to recall a time when things felt normal and carefree. We are in a season where it is recommended to stay home (unless you're an essential worker, in which case, thank you) and limit contact with other people outside of our homes. But that doesn't mean there is no room for projects and fun distractions from the trying times, especially when they have some serious benefits. Enter, gardening!

I started my first backyard garden in 2017, when I moved to Vermont. It was a small raised bed nestled just outside of our living room window (strategically placed to keep an eye on hungry squirrels and rabbits). That year, I mostly got tomatoes. But it was a lot—to the point where I was sharing with neighbors and friends, as well as eating a few a day. They had to be some of the most delicious tomatoes I had ever eaten. Was it because they were mine and I watched them grow from measly seeds into something I could slice on my sandwich? That might have had something to do with it. (Research shows that kids are more likely to try and enjoy vegetables they help grow, and aren't we all just big kids?)

As the years have gone on, my little garden is one of my greatest joys in the summertime. I think we all could use a little more joy and something to look forward to as the weather warms this year, which is why I urge you all to consider starting a garden. No space? Plant some herbs in window boxes. Renting and can't dig up the yard? Try container gardening. Don't know how to garden? Lucky for you, we have this handy Beginner's Guide. Read on for some of the reasons I love gardening and why you should too, especially now.

It's a fun project when you're spending more time at home

Recommended stay-at-home orders are seeping into the warmer months for many of us. If you are running out of kitchen projects or losing steam on your to-do list, gardening can be a fun and productive way to spend your time. Once you have the supplies and soil, gardening can be done in the comfort of your home. Nurseries and hardware stores should still be open to help supply you, but you may need to call to figure out what stores in your area are doing to keep people safe as they shop for gardening supplies.

Not to mention, watching seedlings sprout and plants flower can spruce up your space and bring some cheerful color to your home. For at least one of our editors, taking care of plants is the only thing keeping her sane right now.

Avocado plant

Food that you garden is almost free

Once you gather all of your supplies, gardening is virtually free (and can lead to free food if you're successful). There are some costs to gardening that may feel like a barrier for some. But, living in a house with other recent post-grads, we have created some ways to work around spending too much on supplies.

If you are starting from seed, I have only had success using a seed starter kit (although it's possible to just use toilet paper rolls). These typically run between $10 and $30 depending on the size you want. (Try this Burpee 36-Cell Self-Watering Greenhouse Kit starting at $11 at HomeDepot.com.) The good news is, once you have one, you can reuse it every year. All you need is soil and seeds. We've also saved money using plastic cups (with holes poked in the bottom) to transplant the seedlings, rather than buying lots of pots.

Lastly, you don't need to buy special fertilizer. Coffee grounds or egg shells canact as free, natural fertilizer alternatives.

Or, skip extra supplies altogether and start your garden from vegetable and fruit scraps.

Seedlings in pots

Gardening is rewarding and healthy

We all know vegetables are healthy, but the act of gardening can be good for your health too. Gardening is a subtle form of physical activity that can burn as many calories as a 30-minute walk. This activity boost can help you lose weight, build muscle and reduce your risk for chronic illnesses, like heart disease. Not to mention, many people who take up gardening tend to eat more vegetables because they are free, readily available and delicious.

Beyond physical health, gardening has some serious mental and emotional health benefits as well. Gardening and spending time in nature can help lower stress and ease depression, something we all could probably benefit from right now. Gardening nourishes so many of our senses and helps us feel connected to our food, which can help us enjoy it more.

This year especially, there are so many good reasons to take the time and start a garden, even if it's just a small herb garden in your kitchen. Your future self will thank you when you are enjoying freshly picked cucumbers or fresh herbs. Check out these 13 Easy-To-Grow Vegetables & Herbs and more at Plant Your Plate.