You won't find a more rewarding pastime than gardening. Sprouting from a tiny seedling into a prolific plant doesn't happen all at once, of course, but it's pretty amazing that something so small can transform into something so fruitful.

If fruit and vegetable gardening only put food on your friends' and family's table, that alone would be enough to develop a green thumb. After all, the ingredients in a garden salad or melon medley are filled with all-important vitamins and minerals necessary for energy, recovery and memory. But as it happens, growing a garden is more than just fuel for the body - it also nourishes your mental, emotional and social wellbeing.

Studies from both U.S.- and Canada-based educational institutions show that socializing with friends, co-workers and even acquaintances is pivotal to your overall health. Many of the activities gardening entails provide openings to social interactions. The results speak for themselves. As detailed by Growing Health in the report "The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Well-Being," gardening has been shown to alleviate social withdrawal symptoms associated with people battling certain diseases and conditions, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression.

Gardening Can Enhance Healing
Take therapeutic horticulture as a classic example. This form of gardening involves the cultivation and management of crops both for the practical purpose of growing food, but more specifically, to create the conditions designed to heal, be it emotionally, physically or psychologically. Studies referenced by Growing Health show therapeutic horticulture is as effective as a supplement to other mental health programs, a constructive alternative to destructive habits or behaviours and the debilitating effects of age-related decline.

Gwenn Fried, manager of horticulture therapy for Langone's Rusk Rehabilitation at New York University, told Good Housekeeping that gardening fosters the ability to get in touch with the environment, which in many ways is a sort of natural medicine.

"Nature has a huge impact on health and wellness," Fried explained. "We know that people's cortisol levels go down in a calm, green environment."

What Are the Best Foods to Grow?
As plentiful as the health benefits of gardening may be, so too are the crop varieties begging to be planted. So, how do you choose the best ones to grow? Perhaps the smartest strategy is by understanding what fruits and vegetables are ideal for our climate.

Tomatoes thrive in warm, humid environments. While temperatures can get hot in July and August, generally speaking, conditions in Canada tend to be mild more often than not. While this shouldn't prevent you from growing tomatoes, be sure to plant in gardens that get plenty of sunshine. Carrots, onions, corn, and cabbage are also ideal for Canadian soil, but they too should be planted in sun-drenched parts of your property and be watered regularly. 

If staple crops such as these aren't up your alley, you may want to try your hand at specialty vegetables.  As noted by Food Bloggers of Canada, bok choy, gai lan, daikon and chinese cabbage may be somewhat lesser-known but they can be just as fruitful and delicious in the proper environment. Tah Tsai - otherwise known as spinach mustard - is another crop that favours climates similar to ours.

With summer weather finally here, there's never been a better time to try your hand, or green thumb, at gardening. So, get going and get growing!