By Pam Fullenweider
GARDENING ADDS YEARS TO YOUR LIFE AND LIFE TO YOUR YEARS
With the arrival of Spring, I am looking forward to planting in my little garden and reflecting on why I enjoy it so much. The connection with nature is healing and restorative. The garden brings together our relationship with the outdoors, our culture and traditions and is an expression of our lifestyle. Whether you work in a community garden, school garden or your own family garden, it is widely recognized that gardening has many physical and mental health benefits.
Eating a plant-forward diet is key to the Mediterranean lifestyle. Many studies show growing your own food increases your fruit and vegetable consumption and helps improve attitudes towards healthy foods. According to Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Mass General Hospital: “Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate. When you grow your own food, you savour it more because of the effort it took to get it to the table.”
Moving is an essential part of the Mediterranean lifestyle and gardening provides excellent opportunities for exercise. Digging, mulching, hauling and harvesting provide strength and cardio activity and promote flexibility. Gardening helps relieve stress, boost mood and promotes healthy aging. Gardens can help foster feelings of connections when we work with others. With all these benefits in mind, here are a few basic tips to get started on your garden:
10 BASIC TIPS
- Select fruits and vegetables that your family likes to eat.
- Location: Pick the right area to start a garden – it is all about location! Most vegetables, herbs and flowers need about 6-8 hours of direct sunshine every day. The amount of light for the plant is very important for the plant to thrive.
- Remember to place your garden where you can see it – out of sight out of mind definitely applies to gardening!
- Pick a place near water, so watering will be super easy. Make sure you can run a hose to your garden site.
- Start with great soil. Soil is so important to the success of your garden. Always start with nutrient-rich soil.
- Select plants that match your growing conditions: consider your climate, soil
- conditions, and sunlight requirements. Easy vegetables to grow include lettuces, tomatoes, peppers and most herbs.
- Water, but not too much! Check your soil to make sure you are not over-watering. To check if plants need water, push your finger into the soil and if it is dry, it is time to water!
- Use mulch to help reduce weeds and keep moisture in your soil. Maintain your garden: water, pull weeds, keep pesky bugs off your plants, make sure you harvest your veggies as soon as they are ready.
- Check with your local garden center for more information on vegetables, fruits, and fertilizer that work well in your area.
If this is your first time planting a garden, start small. Try a container garden or a simple raised bed. A beautiful pot of basil on a window sill is the perfect kitchen garden for many. Remember gardening is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. It takes practice and patience to develop your green thumb!