Mankind and the soil have a long-term, ageless relationship.  A garden might be your personal plot of earth outside the back door, a shared community vegetable bed, or pots of African violets lining the windowsill. Regardless of the size and locale, the benefits of its care are firmly rooted in physical fitness, emotional wellbeing and good stewardship of the earth.

Get Moving

Think of the garden as a low-tech workout machine. Some physical benefits fall into the obvious category, where major tasks reap big rewards. As we know, vigorous exercise helps increase bone density, improve circulation, and tone muscles.

However, if you’ve been a couch potato all winter, these strenuous undertakings can turn into injury. Avoid the pitfalls of a weekend warrior gardener, and match your tasks with your current fitness level. Gardening is a lifetime sport, so be mindful of your limitations.   

The obvious:

  • A rake and a leaf pile equal a great cardio workout.
  • Hoist a wheelbarrow, and get the forearms in gear.
  • Fill several gallon watering cans and drift through the garden with eight-pound weights.
  • Push the lawn mower instead of riding and receive a core muscle strengthening session.
  • Shear a hedge and give the arms and upper body a significant workout.

Less obvious:

These benefits also contribute to a healthy body, and take limited capabilities into account. Less strenuous than the tasks listed above, they improve muscle coordination, fine motor skills, and eye/hand coordination. 

  • Breathe deeply. All movement helps the body’s circulation and oxygenation. If you do nothing more than walk out the door and literally smell the roses, you have taken a step toward better health.  A natural dose of Vitamin D comes as a bonus.
  • Fine muscles: Think fingers, hands, and wrists. Every time you fill a flowerpot with soil, small muscles engage.
  • Pinch the dead heads from a petunia or marigold and exercise those fingers. Coordination improves and mobility increases
  • Cut flowers, separate tangled roots, and plant small containers to build strength. 

In the Spirit

Science offers complex words to extol the garden’s virtues on our souls. It is infinitely easier to understand, however, if you simply step outdoors. Chances are birds will be singing. Inhale and exhale slowly; the day’s freshness overtakes your stress. Fragrance may drift your way and cause outright giddiness. 

Nurture and nature possess the gardener. Plant a seed and discover never-ending wonder when life pushes through the soil.  Fill a window box with herbs, or install a shade tree in the front yard and experience hope. Root a few leaves from the prized African violet; coax them into new plants, and reap the pleasure of sharing.

Any gardener will tell you, life is not always sunshine and roses. For every beetle that turns foliage into a doily and every tomato that succumbs to the irreverent green worm, there is also a moment of awe, wonder, and humbling beauty. We learn life lessons; deal with it, move on, and what can I grow next?  In the grand scheme of this complex world, the garden is tangible, generous, forgiving, and alive. It’s not a bad way to spend a few moments, or an entire day, if you’re lucky.

Think Green

Yes, it’s cliché, but the importance of growing ‘green,’ (read: responsible gardening) is immeasurable. We are stewards of our little patch of earth and everything we do has an effect—positive or negative. It affects our immediate surroundings, our neighbors, and yes, ultimately, the world. How we grow impacts our air, water, soil, animals, insects, and generations to come. Discover how easy it can to get started:

  • Install a rain barrel.
  • Compost yard and kitchen waste
  • Use soaker hoses
  • Discover organic fertilizers and soil amendments.
  • Use a broom (Skip the blower)
  • Push a reel lawn mower (Reduce emissions and have you seen the gas prices?)
  • Try a manual hedge shear, trimmer and grass clipper (Bye-bye weed-eater and macho power tools).
  • Recycle plastic flowerpots and trays.

 Think immediate, and understand that even simple steps make a world of difference.