Whether you have been gardening your entire life or have recently embraced this outdoor passion, there’s always more to learn about how to improve your garden and your experience while planting and harvesting. Gardening is much more than a hobby: Everyone from toddlers to adults can benefit from fresh air, physical activity, learning about plants, eating fruits and vegetables and the emotional satisfaction of nurturing a garden.
Studies have shown that everyone can benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from gardening. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that daily physical activity, such as watering your plants or pulling a few weeds, can help you live a longer, healthier life. The study, which followed 4,000 60-year-olds in Stockholm over a 12-year period, found that people who engage in daily physical activity, including gardening, had a 27 percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke and a 30 percent lower risk of death from any cause.
Researchers found that adults 65 and older who garden were significantly less likely to develop dementia. One reason for this may be that the physical act of planting and weeding can boost heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain. In addition, gardening can reduce symptoms of depression, relieve stress, and keep your brain active as you plan your garden and learn more about its plants. If you garden with other people at home or in a community garden, you can interact and connect with them, which can help to keep your mind sharp and emotionally engaged.
When you choose the right plants, the right techniques, and the right tools, gardening can be even more fulfilling.
Design Your Garden for Comfort
Gardening won’t be as enjoyable if you end up with an injury—such as a backache, a sunburn, or a cut (especially if it becomes infected). The same is true if you become frustrated by plants that won’t grow or overwhelmed with your tasks.
If you’re starting a garden for the first time, consider planting in a small area only and leaving the rest of your yard in its natural state—or maybe installing a no-maintenance rock garden. If you already have a garden, and you feel you spend too much time and energy maintaining the space, consider reducing the area you actively work on.
When planning your garden, it’s wise to consult a gardening expert or research plants online so that you choose flowers, shrubs, trees, fruits and vegetables that are native to your area and will thrive easily. Take note of how much sunlight your garden will receive before you buy seeds or seedlings, as they may die if exposed to too little or too much light. And think about choosing low-maintenance varieties that require less weeding, feeding and pruning.
Avoid Back and Shoulder Pain
Weeding can be one of the least pleasurable gardening activities, and can lead to aching backs and shoulders. You can reduce your need for weeding by using more mulch, which slows the growth of weeds. You can also make the process easier by pulling weeds after a rainstorm and cutting them during a dry spell.
To ease back strain when weeding, planting and harvesting, consider installing tall raised beds for your garden. If you don’t want to build or buy waist-high beds, then what about those that are one or two feet off the ground? Those, too, can help to reduce stress on your back.
Large pots and planters also require less bending and can add flare to your indoor or outdoor decor. Likewise, hanging baskets can make gardening more effortless and less painful. You can install a pulley system to lower your hanging baskets for feeding, weeding and deadheading plants. Even planting a few taller vegetables, such as beans and cucumbers, or flowering vines on a trellis can help you avoid back pain.
Choose the Right Supplies
In addition to choosing easy-to-grow, hardy plants and designing your garden for low maintenance enjoyment, investing in the right supplies can make gardening more enjoyable for everyone. Almost everyone knows that they should wear sunscreen, but it’s also important to wear a hat, as sun damage can occur to the top of the head and be hidden by the hair. And a good pair of gardening gloves can protect the skin from the sun and from cuts and scrapes caused by thorns and garden tools.
Selecting ergonomically-designed tools can make a huge difference in your comfort level. For example, many gardeners use spades for digging and weeding, but some prefer a garden fork since it’s typically lighter and you’re less likely to accidentally nick a plant. A carpenter’s apron can be a good option for carrying gardening tools with you from plant to plant and a garden cart can make it easier to move plants, plant food, and mulch from one part of your garden to another.
Tending to your plants can be less damaging if you support your knees while you kneel. For example, a kneeler stool which can be used in two ways: It can be used as a lightweight stool when you need to sit or flipped over when you need to kneel. The thick pad cushions your knees and the hand grips help you maneuver from kneeling to standing. If you have a large garden and a bigger budget, check out the Tractor Scoot. You can sit on it, swivel around on it, and use it to slide across your yard.
In addition to buying the right tools, look for ways to make your tasks more user-friendly. Installing levers instead of knobs on faucets and gates can make them more accessible for individuals with joint pain and children helping out with yard work. Choose a hose nozzle that you can control with a squeeze of your hand rather than one that requires complicated movements to adjust the spray. You can also opt for a soaker hose or an irrigation system. Either will reduce or eliminate the need to drag a heavy hose from one end of your garden to another.
Freeing yourself from the less enjoyable parts of gardening, such as back strain and pulled muscles, can improve the time you spend planting, pruning, watering, and wandering around admiring your handiwork.
Disclaimer: This article is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet or starting a new exercise regimen.