We’re told that Eden was the first, and while the situation didn’t end particularly well for those appointed “to dress it and to keep it,” that hasn’t discouraged others through the ages from cultivating and taking pride in their own gardens.
Dropping a tiny seed into the dirt and receiving the miracle of food for the table or a bounty of beautiful flowers creates a sense of satisfaction, peace, and awe.
Even as fulfilling as that is, there are more benefits to be enjoyed. Studies show that gardening reduces stress and aids relaxation; increases mobility and flexibility by involving different muscle groups in stretching and twisting; improves strength and endurance; is said to help prevent osteoporosis; strengthens the immune system through exposure to sunlight (vitamin D); lowers the risk of dementia by 36 percent; and expands interest in nature.
A study from the Netherlands cites gardening as a better stress-reliever than other hobbies. Following a stressful activity, participants were told to spend 30 minutes either reading indoors or gardening outdoors. Those who chose to garden evidenced lower levels of stress hormones and reported better moods than those who read.
Stanford University published a study stating that exposure to nature for just 90 minutes can improve one’s mental wellbeing and reduce depression.
The effort, dedication, and nurturing aspects necessary for maintaining a garden keep the mind active without the stress of problem-solving.
And, gardening is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as a low impact strengthening and aerobic exercise for those over the age of 65. Pulling weeds, bending, twisting, increases flexibility and stamina.
But what if someone feels their advanced age means their gardening joys are behind them? Some of those issues can be remedied.
Raised garden beds, vertical planters, walls and trellises do away with the need for squatting or deep bending. A small stool, cushion or knee pads can relieve pressure on the joints. Look for tools that are light weight and easy to grasp. Or modify the grips on existing tools with tape, foam, or plastic tubing. A drip feeder watering system or planting near a tap can make watering easier. (And if these options aren’t possible, bribe the neighbor’s kid to do it.)
Before heading out to the garden, do a little light stretching. Garden either early in the morning or late in the day to prevent strong sun exposure. Use sunblock, wear a hat and sunglasses, and keep skin covered. Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water. Wear lightweight clothing, protective gloves and shoes.
And should you encounter a chatty serpent, don’t listen to him. He’s a trouble-maker.