By Marta Street, Certified Concierge Care Advisor
In talking with seniors and learning about what things bring them joy, many talk about how they miss getting their hands dirty in the garden. They think that because they are having some challenges with their health and mobility, they can no longer do what they used to enjoy.
The truth is gardening has many physical and mental health benefits. Just being outdoors is a great start to help with mood, especially after the long dark and gloomy winters that we experience in the Pacific Northwest. There is nothing better than a good dose of Vitamin D that we get from the sun, along with some fresh spring air to lift our spirits.
Staying active helps improve our mood and can help reduce our pain. The simple act of planting, pruning and watering flowers helps us stay flexible and improves coordination. By keeping busy in the garden, it helps us take our minds off our pain and other troubles and gives us something productive to do that will produce something wonderful in the end. Who doesn’t like to see colorful flowers or eat something you grew yourself? Creating a beautiful place to relax and enjoy gives you the added benefit of reducing stress and can actually lower blood pressure. Before you go out and tackle your new gardening project, here are some safety tips to consider:
- Make sure the area you are going to work in is safe from trip hazards.
- Are there loose steps or exposed tree roots? Is the ground level and free of clutter?
- In the warmer months, don’t forget a sunhat and sunscreen and make sure you have a water bottle with you.
- Keep your phone with you just in case something happens and you need to call for help.
- And most important, don’t overdo it; Take your time and enjoy the journey.
Here are some ideas of how to create that perfect easy to manage garden space:
- Raised flower beds are great! Keeping your work at waste level makes it easier to manage, and they are very attractive. On that same note, raised pots can add character to your space.
- They make great tools now for working in your garden that are lighter weight and designed to be easier to hold. Don’t overfill buckets and keep your garden hoses stowed away when not in use.
- Have some sort of seat to rest on when you get tired.
- Don’t overdo it! When you begin to get tired, enjoy a glass of iced tea or lemonade and enjoy what you are creating. There is always tomorrow to keep working.
- Do you want to be social with your gardening hobby? Look for a community garden in your neighborhood. You can share your love of the garden and maybe help others learn skills in the process.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few easy ideas:
- Plant Cherry Tomatoes. They are easy to grow, and they taste great! They do well in small areas like decks and do well in pots as well.
- Herb gardens are fun! Grow your favorites and share with neighbors and use them in your own cooking.
- Snacking gardens can be fun too. Keep it near your kitchen so you can grab celery, lettuce, and baby carrots. Throw in a strawberry plant or two. I’ve seen “salad bowls” where people grow everything you need to build your own garden salad.
- Indoor bulbs are fun to add color when it’s gloomy outside. Things like narcissus, hyacinth, and amaryllis are easy to grow and be kept inside year around.
This is the perfect time to start thinking about getting that garden started. Brush off your tools, get those gloves on and let’s go get dirty!