I garden. I am not sure I’d call myself a “gardener”. I do it for the fun of it. I do it to be outside. I do it for an excuse to get dirty. I love starting with nothing and ending with a beautiful, sometimes edible something. I never really thought of it as a workout until I got older and started to “feel” the results of my tending of the garden by way of muscle aches and pains after a lengthy or more strenuous session.
I get the benefit of exercise and exposure to the “happy vitamin” which is vitamin D produced by the sun. My love of gardening was started by watching my mother grow huge flower and vegetable gardens. Each house we lived in had to have a place for a garden. As a child, I remember marveling at the size and quantity of zucchinis that seem to grow overnight.
When I moved to the house where I raised my family, I met some ladies in my neighborhood who were considered to be master gardeners. Their yards were often featured for annual tours in our town. They shared their knowledge, their plants, and their love of gardening. During that time we also shared life. They were older and wiser than I was. They taught me about life and also the pleasures of gardening.
I’ve found that whether or not a person calls themselves a gardener, there is a little bit of envy towards those who are, and more importantly, for those who do it well. There are so many benefits of gardening for everyone and those benefits increase as we age. Very few activities are both fitness friendly and potentially eating friendly.
In composing this article, I looked up research based studies to see what fact based research showed regarding the actual health benefits of gardening. In one article, the correlation of reduced risk of falls for those who gardened at least one hour a week compared to those who don’t garden was studied. The data gathered showed that those who gardened had a lower potential risk of falling because they had better balance and gait than those who were non-gardeners.
Gardening, according to the Center for Disease Control, can be compared to a moderate cardiovascular activity. Working in the garden weeding and planting burns 200-400 calories per hour, which is similar to the same amount of time walking. If you add in raking and moving rocks and dirt, you will kick that burn up to 600 calories or more. It improves flexibility, builds stronger bones, and improves eye-hand coordination. It requires a bit of memory, too. We have to remember when and where to water and where we planted certain plants.
Other benefits include that this activity can be done indoors or out, and it can be a year around activity if you like. Gardening is an activity that can be done by nearly anyone at any level of fitness or physical ability because it can be done either at ground level or in raised containers or beds. Indoors, you can grow a garden in a greenhouse or in your house using a variety of planting methods and surface levels.
There are community gardens and gardening classes to address our social needs. So you can learn to garden with a group. You can find or coordinate a community garden work alongside others. I prefer to relish in the silence of gardening alone. I look forward to teaching my grandchildren the art and joy of gardening.
There are few activities that can meet the emotional desire of accomplishment better than starting a garden and seeing it bloom with flowers, vegetables and or herbs. The tasty result of delicious fresh produce herbs for feasting can not be beat. A blooming area of flowers to leave on display in the yard or use to brighten and perfume our living spaces is a beautiful gift.
To get started gardening, consider your climate. Decide if you want an indoor garden or an outdoor garden. If it’s going to be outdoors check online for timing. There are many websites listing growing seasons for each climate zone usually marked on a map. Then decide if you want a flower or food garden. A mixture of both is nice for variety and for benefit of complementing plants that help ward off bugs, provide shade, or encourage pollination.
After that, invest in the tools you’ll need including good gardening gloves. I like the ones that are fabric on the top of your hands and a more durable material that covers your palms. You’ll need a small shovel called a trowel, and if you’ll be using a bigger space, you’ll want a big shovel and a hula hoe, sometimes known as a stirrup hoe. A good pair of garden shoes that can be left at the door are worth the investment.
Indoor gardening can be as simple as using small containers, a little potting soil and some seeds, and finding a sunny spot for growing. You won’t burn as many calories doing this, but you can still benefit by the joy of seeing the fruits of your labor or taking a class that teaches about methods and maintenance of indoor plants.
Greenhouse gardening is serious undertaking with the necessity of an area and equipment to do so. If this is something you are feeling inspired to try, look online for ways to get started. There are many YouTube videos to help you, or join Facebook or other gardening communities in your area or online.
I live in an area with a long growing season. The temperature of the day determines the amount of time I spend outside tending my garden. In the summer, we usually have to do the majority of our toiling in the early morning hours and in the evening. I love being able to walk out to my garden to grab fresh herbs for flavor when I’m cooking. One winter I grew potatoes and I felt like I was doing an Easter egg hunt digging the white, red and purple small potatoes. I love trying new combinations of flowers with vegetables to see how much I can do without using chemicals to hold back the garden monsters.
Watching the slow progress from dormancy to blooming vibrantly alive is one of my favorite reminders of hope. If a grape vine or wisteria vine can go from looking dead to beautiful and pungent or fruit-bearing, we can all walk a little in the dark to get to the warm light of spring and summer seasons in our lives.