Local lifestyle columnists

Plenty of benefits from playing in the garden dirt

By From page D4 | October 07, 2012

Remember when we were kids and how much fun it was to play in the dirt? Now as adults we still play in the dirt but now we call it soil instead, and gardening instead of playing. But sometimes it’s like playing.

We all know the satisfaction we get when we grow and eat fresh-picked vegetables, fruit or plant a beautiful flower garden. Eating fruits and vegetables you grow gives you a good feeling knowing that they are free from harmful pesticides for your family and pets. Because we are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables we grow, we eat healthier and more of a variety.

Did you know there are other benefits that come from gardening? You can save money by planting a garden; if you have children included them in the planning and planting of the garden. They will benefit from the exercise they get from planting and tending the garden. Maybe would even be more willing to try eating some of the fruit and vegetables they had refused to try before.

If they learn as children they are more apt to continue as adults and continue to get health benefits from it. A few winter vegetables to be planted now lettuce, carrots, and radishes to get children started gardening.

Gardening is good exercise, digging, weeding, planting, bending and even stretching to trim a large shrub or tree. Don’t forget lifting bags of mulch, compost and containers to be filled with potting soil. Be careful how you lift and do not lift anything too heavy.

As a mood-lifter, gardening can’t be beat! Go to your favorite nursery, bring home a new plant add it to your garden. Take a walk around your yard, deadhead flowers, pull a weed or two or water your plants watch the birds, bees and butterflies. You soon will see how much a little time spent in your garden improves your mood, and helps keep the garden looking at its best.

Gardening also releases your creative side, deciding on if you want a picture perfect garden or one that may be more natural. This choice takes planning which make you think.

Live in an apartment or condo? You can still garden and get health benefits by planting a container garden. Most things that grow in the ground will grow in containers. Just make sure the containers are large enough for what you are going to plant.

Lettuce makes a great container plant, and you can also plant kale, radishes, carrots in containers. If you have flowers in containers, they will need deadheading for continuous blooms, also fertilizer and water. Plant chrysanthemums, cyclamen for winter color and bulbs can be planted now for spring blooms.

If you have trouble bending down to the soil to plant, you can build or buy planting beds that are waist-high, so that bending is not a problem. If you need a wheelchair, some beds are built tall enough so the chair fits under. This way you can enjoy gardening without the concern about bending down.

At VA clinics there are “healing gardens” where veterans plant and work in the gardens. They are called “healing gardens” because they have shown it helps in reducing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome symptoms in some of the veterans. In these gardens, the veteran gets a plot and can plant fruit, vegetables or flowers. They get to harvest and take home with them what they grow. This gardening therapy has shown progress in the veterans healing.

You say “I don’t have to have a green thumb” — all you need to garden is the willingness to try. If you fail try again, even the experts have failures. There is always help available for you by contacting the Master Gardeners at [email protected] or 784-1322 for any questions you may have on gardening.

Some basic rules: If it is hot, do not plant — it is not good for the plants or you. Wear the appropriate clothing for protection, a hat, long sleeves, long pants and don’t forget your gloves and sunglasses and sun block.

Things to think about when you say “the garden needs to be tended” and you don’t feel like doing it: Manuel trimming of shrubs and weeding is said to burn 182 calories in a 30-minute period, raking and planting seedling about 162 per 30 minutes. Heavy gardening can burn up to 600 calories per hour. Heavy gardening includes digging, mowing lawns with a push mower. Some experts are looking into the benefits of gardening and health they think it helps lower blood pressure and reduces stress in some people.

Enjoy what benefits and the thrill of fresh vegetables, fruits and the pleasure of a wonderful yard with beautiful flowers you, your family and your garden will get from just a few minutes a day working in it.

Betty Victor is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Betty Victor


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