Mental And Physical Health Studies Give Gardening An “A+”
Research concludes that the positive effects of gardening reveal a marked decrease in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some types of cancer. Furthermore, senior citizens who garden have a much lower chance of developing mental illnesses such as dementia.
Other Benefits For Gardening Enthusiasts
Depressed? Low self-esteem? Take a walk through your garden and interact with the plants you have nurtured and helped to grow. You will marvel at how wonderful Mother Nature is – and, you will revive your deep connection to her and all the foliage you survey. Plus, you can be proud of yourself – and pat yourself on the back for your triumphs! How can anyone feel depressed after that? And, you just raised your self-esteem a few notches.
High Strung? Nervous? Chronically impatient? Nothing else offers you the peace and calm that a garden can. Just looking at the plants – and how they change a little bit every day – as they grow to maturity and provide you with the fruits of your labor – will make you more relaxed and tranquil – able to be more tolerant of life’s adversities.
Frustrated? Angry? Feeling hostile? Get out there and yank some weeds – or, chop them out with a garden spade. Chop and dig and cut and slash for as long as it takes to get those bad feelings out of your system. This really works well for me when I need to vent my irritability.
Gardening Improves Brain Functions
Planning a garden – layout – types of veggies that grow well in your area – water and fertilizer needs – all of these things keep your brain fine-tuned to stay sharp and healthy from childhood through advanced age. See “How To Plan A Backyard Garden.”
Keeping records is a must to ensure proper crop rotation – which is important to minimize the plants being attacked by diseases and pests that were enjoying the plants in their location last year. You also want to keep track of which brands of veggies work well from year to year.
Pick the right vegetables. Some veggies don’t grow well in every USDA hardiness zone – so, it takes time and research to find those foods that can be successfully grown in your area. Plus, you need to understand whether they need to be germinated or if they can be just seeded into the ground. How deep should you plant them? How much space should you give them – between plants – and between rows?
How much water do they need? The normal rule of thumb is an inch per week. But, some plants need more – and some plants can do with less.
What about food? Are they nitrogen hungry plants or, can they thrive on the standard 10-10-10 fertilizer. Should they be offered a potassium rich fertilizer such as 0-0-60 when they start to flower and fruit?
Tackling all of these various data points will keep your brain working at top efficiency as you work to guarantee the health and well-being of your crops.
Build A Stronger Body – Lose That Flab
There are so many vigorous gardening activities that I don’t know where to begin…
Taking soil samples – Getting a soil test necessitates gathering dirt from various spots throughout the garden. A half dozen spots would be sufficient for a small plot – but, a larger backyard garden of 2,500 square feet, like mine, needs samples from more than a dozen areas. Then, the soil samples must be dried out and sifted to remove the twigs, pebbles, and clumps. You will feel the tightness growing in your stomach and legs from all this digging and bending over.
Tilling – Tilling the soil can take from 2 to 8 hours, or more. It is a task best completed twice a year – in the spring to get ready for planting – and, in the fall to turn any garden debris back into the soil for composting over the winter. Whether you use a small electric tiller or a large gas tiller, grinding up the soil is great for toning both upper and lower body – as well as strengthening your back.
Germination – You can make your own starter pots from discarded newspapers or buy them – but, you still have to go through the normal germination process for any veggies that prefer being a seedling before moving into their garden home. Setting up the germination station takes time and effort – but, it’s well worth it! It will increase your dexterity for sure – if nothing else.
Hardening off – All those seedlings need to spend a couple of weeks hardening off before finally being planted in the garden. That means a daily transfer of plants from the germination station to a protected area outside early in the day – and, then, moving them back inside later on. You’ll be doing some walking – and adding upper body muscle.
Making and installing trellises – If you grow any vining or tall and fruit-heavy veggies, it is sensible to make some type of trellis – at least one – or, in my case, two or three. Installing the trellises mean pounding stakes into the ground with a sledge hammer or fence post driver – and tying ropes or chicken wire to the stakes for plant support. That can make you work up a real good sweat while you build your upper body!
Creating Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture – You would not believe how much exercise you can get just making Jim’s 50/50 soil mixture. To get the dirt portion of the formula, I dig all my tomato holes, place the dirt that I dug up into totes, and haul the totes off to my garden shed. Then, I mix the dirt – a bucket at a time – with my garden soil and fertilizer – place it into another tote – and use the mixture for planting. If you think that is not a great work out, then you have never done it! After a day of this, I can feel the increased power in my chest and arms.
Planting – How many times do you think you get down on your knees – get back up again – get down again – get up again – when you plant? I do it more times than I can count. ‘Nuff said. It truly beats deep knee bends and squats that other folks do at a gym where they pay big bucks every month for the privilege of having a place to keep fit. You got a free place – your garden.
Fertilizing – Pushing a broadcast spreader of fertilizer through your garden every couple of weeks gets you walking and burning calories. Add to that the exertion of hoisting and working with the 50 pound weight of the bags of fertilizer. Wrestle with a dozen of those bags and tell me if you don’t feel the burn!
Pruning – Many of your veggies need to have dead, diseased, or excess leaves and stems removed on a regular basis. So, you will be doing a lot of bending and kneeling – as well as searching intently for the vegetation that needs to be cut off. That gives you additional lower body work and sharpens your visual skills.
Mulching – You should mulch around the plants and between rows – if you want to seriously minimize weeds that want to compete with your veggies for water and nutrients. If you get lucky like I did the last couple of years – and get a free truckload of wood chips, you will be filling a few hundred totes to spread throughout your garden. This activity will get the blood flowing – and wake up muscles through all areas of your body – muscles you didn’t know you had!
Weeding – Here we are back on our knees again – yanking out those unwanted green monsters by hand. Or, maybe you will use a push-pull hoe, a hula hoe, an electric tiller, or a gas tiller to eradicate the green demons. You have just initiated more upper and lower body toning.
Harvesting – When harvest time comes in my garden, I pick 50 pounds of vegetables every single day. Some days are less – but, most days are more. Can you imagine how much work that is? My body definitely knows it’s alive after a morning of picking my crops.
Preserving – Finally, it’s time to get involved with preserving those veggies that can’t be eaten in a couple of days. Just ask my wife if canning, dehydrating, freezing, or freeze-drying are a walk in the park. If you do, she will give you the evil eye! During harvest time we have one or more types of preservation techniques going on every single day – 7 days a week! Cleaning, blanching, cutting, and storing all the produce can really build up endurance and stamina – as well as tone muscles.
The bottom line is that all the gardening work you do may not get you looking as skinny as Stan Laurel – the pencil thin half of the old comedy duo – Laurel and Hardy. But, I guarantee that you won’t look like Oliver Hardy – the pleasantly plump member of the team.
But, your bones, muscles, and joints will thank you for all your gardening efforts!
Gardening is magic – and, really cheap therapy!
So, what are you waiting for? Get your mind around gardening. Anytime is the right time of the year!
Leave a comment about your “gardening exercise routine” and how it helps you stay healthy. Alternatively, send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org.