Unless you’re living in the southern U.S. chances are gardening season is only just beginning for you. Long awaited and long anticipated by those of us who live through bone-chilling cold, knee high blizzards and soggy springs, gardening season is that special time of year where budgets are forgotten as we gaze longingly at all the beautiful blooms for sale. Perhaps you are currently enjoying the view of cherry blossoms, the budding of tulips and daffodils or eagerly anticipating the arrival of rosebuds. Whatever your passionate about (even passionflowers!) now is the time to finally get outdoors. Tis the season to both garden and enjoy your garden. Let’s talk about how and why!
How To Garden:
We’re serious. Just because gardening is natural doesn’t means it comes naturally to all of us. Some of us could use a tip or two on how to garden successfully. For example, did you know that after cutting the grass, enjoying a cool beverage of choice under the shade of the trees is mandatory? Some might even say that beer and grass cutting go hand in hand, as long as you’re not actually holding a beer in your hand while driving the lawn tractor that is! But seriously now, here are a few tips that have nothing to do with just being seniors, but that seniors (and anyone who gardens) would be wise to follow:
- Warm Up and Stretch
- We can’t wait to get our hands dirty but a little pre-season weight training never hurt anyone! You are already an active and EnGaged older adult so perhaps you are ready to hit the dirt because you’ve been doing some light weight-lifting all winter long. If not, you should probably spend some time warming up and stretching before you start lifting fertilizer bags, crawling around in the dirt to plant flowers or using a shovel to shift soil. Gardening is actually hard work and you should be loose, limber and prepared. Consider adding some squats to your daily exercise routine and toned abs will help support aging back muscles. Yoga is a great way to incorporate both.
- Protect, protect and protect
- If you’re a boomer, you may have spent some time in the sun, as a younger adult, covered in tanning oil. Yikes! Those days, just like your teens, are long over and the name of the game these days is to slather on the sunscreen. Make sure you are using a product that is at least a 30 or above and that it is waterproof/sweatproof. We all now know how damaging sun can be to our skin so make sure you protect yours with sunscreen or even by wearing long, loose sleeves and long pants.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head, neck and shoulders.
- Gardening gloves are a must! Who needs blisters or to be stabbed by a thorny rose bush? Enjoy the buds and blooms not the blisters.
- Kneelers or knee-pads.
- Digging around requires a lot of bending, squatting or actually kneeling on the ground and while Amintronians are active, healthy and engaged older adults – the truth is – some of us might have knees that have experienced several lifetimes worth of use.
- Check out your local garden and/or home supply store for various “comfort aids” that will support your gardening habit including comfortable and wearable knee pads or a kneeling pad with a carry handle that you can carry around the garden with you as you work.
- By the way – if kneeling is not your thing, many gardening tools are now adapted for use by older adults or persons with disabilities. These include long handled weed extractors, spades, hoes and other tools.
- “Early to Bed, Early To Rise.”
- If you’ve heard this expression before, perhaps you thought it was related to sleep times. We suggest instead that it refers to getting outdoors early. In other words, the best times to get out to those garden beds is early in the morning before the sun has risen to its full peak strength! Get to the gardening early so you can enjoy the afternoons in the shade of the sun umbrella.
Why You Should Garden.
The answers might seem obvious but the benefits are many and worth sharing.
- It’s a natural mood booster! Getting outdoors, fresh air and exposure to vitamin D are all natural and known mood enhancers so simply put, gardening is good for your spirits.
- It’s exercise! No matter what type of gardening you are doing; from pushing a lawn mower, to digging, planting or tree trimming, you are moving and moving is good! Walking, lifting, bending and shifting – it’s all part of healthy, active living and is part of aerobic exercise.
- It’s Age-Proof! Staying active in the garden is just one in a long line of strategies to prevent dementia and early onset Alzheimer’s. According to the AARP, at least one study done in the early 2000’s found a 36% decrease in the likelihood of developing dementia amongst those who garden. It makes sense since we already know that exercise and using your brain for a variety of activities (like identifying plants from weeds perhaps) are great ways to focus the mind and helps to prevent disease.
- It’s a Natural Healer. Gardening helps to calm anxious behaviours, reduce stress and can even help those struggling with anxiety disorders, depression and/or addiction issues. It’s known to help you sleep better (fresh air and exercise will do that) and has even been shown in some studies to help improve self-esteem.
- Forges Connections. Whether it’s just talking to the neighbours as you work, having a conversation with someone who stops to admire your garden OR you are inspired to work together with others in a community garden, you’ll potentially make new friends and interacting with others is a game-changer. Active engaged adults are healthier adults, with well-formed connections to community and who tend to report feeling more empowered. Not to mention – if you’re gardening includes cultivating some of your own fruits and vegetables, you’ll be eating healthier too!
Buds, blooms and botanicals are blossoming all over the place. The sun is shining, the grass is green and patio season beckons. We can’t think of a better time to get outside and do something that’s good for you and good for the planet too. There are numerous benefits to gardening and as long as you stretch and prepare, almost no drawbacks! Whether you are motivated by the pretty sight of passionflowers or a cold beverage awaiting you poolside or on the patio when the work is done – get outside and get gardening! What are you waiting for?