It may be February, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate a garden or have to wait to improve your green thumb. The annual West Michigan Home and Garden Show will be back next month for its 37th season, and this year, there’s a big focus on vegetables.

Among the 350 exhibitors at this year’s show is an entire series on smart vegetable gardening. Whether you’re a total gardening novice, want to determine whether your soil is healthy, or would like information on how to start a garden in a small space, these sessions — hosted by The Michigan State University Extension’s Smart Gardening team — will tell you everything you need to know.

Other seminars offered on March 2 and 3 will focus on community gardens, beekeeping, and selecting the right type of vegetables that provide the biggest boost to your health.

While gardening may be thought of as a niche hobby, it’s become extremely popular. In spring of 2014, 113.5 million people said they gardened within the last 12 months. But it’s also been shown to have a wide variety of surprising health benefits — and not just due to the types of fresh veggies gardeners grow.

Studies have shown that gardeners tend to have a lower BMI and a decreased likelihood of being overweight or obese. Those who garden often find it easier to lose weight because it’s an enjoyable activity that allows you to accomplish more than just a good workout. In addition, gardening may reduce your risk of heart disease, help you develop better coordination and strength, and even boost your immune system.

Gardening may provide physical advantages, but it can also help with your mental and emotional state, too. NASA researchers found that working with plants in space provided stress relief and positive mental stimulation. And other studies have shown that being surrounded by nature can have amazing effects on our emotional well-being.

No matter your reasons for wanting to garden, the seminars at the Home and Garden Show can help you get started on a fulfilling and healthy hobby. Those who register by February 16 can receive a 20% discount, and all registrants will receive a free pass to the Home and Garden Show. More information about the smart veggie gardening sessions is available on the show’s website. You’ll learn how to improve your health with a vegetable garden at home or in your community just in time for spring planting.

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