Pursuing gardening can be a therapeutic hobby to incorporate into your routine as you age. There are many benefits of gardening from reducing stress to promoting exercise. If you are new to gardening or have just recently picked up the hobby, it may seem intimidating and confusing.
But, once you get the hang of it, it can be beneficial to your health and a fun activity to enjoy! Here are eight gardening tips to help you cultivate a garden you love.
Benefits of Gardening
Plants have been known to have positive mental and physical health benefits. One study found that patients hospitalized due to injury or illness recovered faster if they had plants in their rooms or access to a garden. These patients also saw lower stress levels and reported less pain once exposed to plants and greenery. They also went home sooner than other patients who underwent the same procedures!
Because of the known benefits of gardening, it has become a popular hobby for those of any age. Gardening increases your exposure to vitamin D from the sun’s rays, which helps regulate your calcium levels and makes your bones and muscles strong. Sunlight has also been found to reduce blood pressure and stress levels.
Gardening also increases your level of physical activity. Tending to a garden is a great way to enjoy exercise that is not high impact and doesn’t have a high risk for injury.
Another benefit of gardening is that it reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation. Many older adults are homebound due to health issues, so pursuing hobbies and projects can increase your sense of purpose and keep your brain sharp! You can also invite a friend or family member to enjoy the produce from your garden and give back to the community.
Pursuing a hobby like gardening is also a great way to reduce the chances of dementia and decrease depression!
Here are eight tips to help you get started gardening and keep your plants healthy and cared for!
1. Finding the Perfect Spot
Before you begin buying supplies and digging soil, it’s vital to observe your backyard (or wherever you’re planting). Take a few days to pay attention to how much sunlight your area gets. Most vegetables, fruits, and plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight. Make sure your yard is well-lit.
If your garden has more shady spots, you can plant ferns or hostas instead! You also want to make sure your area doesn’t get too much sun, as this could hurt your plants too. Once you figure out what plants you want to grow and understand how much sunlight each plant needs can help you decide where to put your garden.
Flatter ground is best for gardening. If your yard is sloped, you can still plant a garden, but it may be more difficult and more expensive to care for. If you live in a place with regular windy weather, you may want to check how much wind the area you want to plant in gets. Areas that have objects to block wind are best, as wind can cause damage to your garden.
2. Picking Your Plants
Another important step in growing your garden is picking your plants. If you want to grow food from your garden that you and your family can eat, plant foods you like! Make sure you plant the vegetables and fruits according to their season.
The following veggies are best planted from July to August and reaped in the fall:
- Beets, radishes, and turnips
- Broccoli, spinach, kale, peas, and bean bushes
- Carrots, lettuce, cabbage, and escarole
Be sure to research when the first frost of fall is where you live so you can schedule your gardening before that.
In addition, here are some of the best flowers to plant in the fall:
- Black-eyed Susans
If you want to plant herbs, decide which herbs you use the most or which you want to try. Herb gardens are great for beginners and can be grown in small containers as well! You can use old egg crates, old boxes, or even milk cartons to plant herbs in.
3. Picking Your Garden’s Structure
If you want to plant your garden in containers, there are tons of creative ways to recycle boxes and old wood.
You can use old wooden pallets to make a garden with raised beds. This basically means your garden will be raised off of the floor and contained in the box or wooden crate. This ensures that your soil stays healthy, fluffy, and doesn’t retain too much water. A raised bed also protects against weeds and insects! You can also use old crates, plant pots, and even old drawers or cabinets to hold your plants!
4. Picking Your Soil
If you’re planting directly in the ground of your backyard, fertilizing the soil is an important tip to ensure your plants grow and thrive. Investing in a good fertilizer is key also.
If you’re planting in raised beds or pots, you want to pick the best soil for the kinds of plants you’re growing. Here are some things to look for in your soil!
Paying attention to the texture of your soil can tell you a lot about its health. A healthy soil is typically a balance of clay, sand, and silt. Depending on what kind of plants you want to grow, this can vary. Plants that need more water retention like soil with more clay. Plants that rely on their roots to dig deep into the ground like sandier soil as it is easier to penetrate.
The structure of your soil is also an important factor to be aware of. Some soils tend to be grainier, some tend to be clumpier, and others may be softer or more crumbly. The ideal structure for your soil is grainy or crumbly.
If you compost your soil at home, make sure you don’t churn your compost right after heavy rainfall. This may cause your soil to become too wet and get too clumpy.
5. Working the Soil
After you pick what soil you want and fertilize it well, you can till and dig the soil to keep it healthy. Tilling the soil involves using a gardening tool such as a rototiller to dig up and loosen soil. This promotes the health of the bacteria and fungi in the soil, which will help your garden thrive.
Here are some things to remember when tilling:
- Don’t till wet soil. This can cause your soil to get too clumpy and not get enough air.
- Don’t till your soil too often. The best time to till your soil is before the season for which you’re planting. For instance, if you want a spring garden, prepare and till your soil in the fall.
- Don’t till too deep. Anywhere from 12-18 inches is a good measure for how far down to go.
6. Picking Transplants vs. Seeds
You can either plant seeds directly into the soil of your garden, or you can transplant already grown plants to your garden.
Herbs like cilantro, chives, and parsley are easy to grow, so you can plant their seeds directly in your garden or herb pots. However, seeds for other plants can require a lot of attention and care. If you plant tomatoes, brussels sprouts, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, or leeks, you may consider transplanting instead.
To transplant your plants, grow them in a small pot or container at first. You can also buy an already started transplant plant to transplant directly into the soil of your garden. This allows you to jump right into the mature stages without worrying about nurturing your plant as a seedling.
Some plants, however, are easy to plant directly as seeds. If you decide to plant seeds, make sure you don’t plant too many in one place. Some of them may not grow, but if all of your seeds do sprout, your garden can become overcrowded.
7. Maintaining Your Garden
After you’ve implemented these tips into your gardening, it’s important to know how to maintain your garden and keep it healthy! Here are some things to remember:
- Seedlings should be watered each day and transplants every other day until they begin growing.
Once they start growing, you should give your plants about an inch of water each day. However, if you live in a hot or dry location, you can water more than this. The best guideline to follow is this: if your garden feels dry, give it some water!
- Give your plant plenty of space to grow. If it’s too close to another plant, they could compete with each other.
- You can add mulch to control weeds and help contain moisture as well. Two to three inches of mulch in the spring is recommended. You can also add compost or straw.
- If you grow flowers, know when to prune them. Most flowers are best if pruned right after they bloom.
8. Tips To Help You While You Garden
As we age, our bodies can have a tougher time keeping up with our hobbies. If you have tension or discomfort in your joints or muscles, the benefits of gardening may be short-lived. However, there are natural ways to relieve pain and get back out in your garden.
Try a topical pain reliever such as a hemp extract salve or hemp extract roll on to penetrate your muscles and help to temporarily soothe those everyday aches! You can also try ingestible solutions such as hemp extract drops or hemp extract gummies to help soothe pain.
Planting a garden is a great way to connect with nature and promote your mental and physical wellbeing. There are a variety of ways to garden, from planting herbs in an egg carton to enjoying the produce aisle from your own backyard.
With these tips on how to pick the best plants, the best location, the best soil, and how to take care of your plants, you’ll have a thriving outdoor garden in no time!