sprouts growing

 

Dig, Plant, Grow, Eat, Repeat

April is National Gardening Month and the perfect time to get outside and start a garden.

Planting, growing, and eating fresh produce is incredibly gratifying, and it provides an excellent source of nutritious food. In addition, spending time outside is  known to help reduce stress and improve mental clarity.

4 Reasons to Dig in the Dirt

1.   Stress Buster - According to Journal of Health Psychology, Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress, 30 minutes of gardening lowers the stress hormone cortisol.  

2.   Improved Sleep - Research at the University of Pennsylvania suggests that the light activity associated with gardening can help you sleep better at night.

3.   Improved Heart Health - According to WebMD, “Activities such as gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and housework may be as good as formal exercise when it comes to reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke”’

4.   Improved Diet - Gardening is a simple way to increase the nutrients in your diet. Growing produce puts you in control of a plant-centered, healthy diet.  

As With Most Things, Plan First

Whether a master gardener or a first timer, there are many planning options to meet space requirements, available time, and budget. 

  • In-ground garden – designate a level spot in your yard and get started. Start small and expand as desired. Be sure to prepare the soil
  • Raised bed garden - are improved areas of soil elevated above ground level contained with boards or other materials.
  • Container garden - is a simple and fun way to grow just about anything, anywhere – vegetables, herbs, fruit bushes or trees. Containers can be placed on a deck, patio, stoop, or windowsill. This is a great option for those with limited space.

According to the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, there are several factors to consider prior to putting seeds or transplants in the ground:

  1. Consider the Space – it should be on level ground and get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight with no tall trees or objects blocking sunlight. While many plants prefer a lot of light, lettuces and herbs can thrive with only a few hours of full sun.
  2. Water – is the water source easy to access?
  3. Easy Access – choose a site that is accessible on all sides. Consider walking paths and space for the hose, tools, and you.
  4. Must Have Tools – a shovel, rake, gloves, and a hoe.
  5. What to Grow – Consider what your food preferences are as well as the growing season based on where you live.  The Farmer’s Almanac is an excellent resource for determining what to plant when, garden design, tutorials for raised beds or container gardens, and much more. 
  6. Garden Layout – Group plants by how long they take to mature. Place taller plants on the north and west side so they will not shade the shorter plants. 
  7. Investigate Options for Seeds or Transplants - Garden centers, hardware stores, nurseries, and farmers’ markets sell vegetable seeds and transplants.  Some provide delivery or curbside pickup. Call first to find out what is available. 

The Spring of 2020 has given us the gift of time. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time to engage in a project that is good for your body, mind, budget, and health – plant a garden.

About the Writer

Kelley Rakow, Health and Lifestyle Coach

Additional Resources:

The Plant Hardiness Zone Map, developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is a go-to guide for gardeners across the nation.

6 steps to plant a garden

 

Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.