As we bask in the rays of our golden years, physical impairments shouldn’t hinder us from being one with nature. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense activity every day to be healthy. Why not spend it gardening?

According to a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research, gardening is an excellent form of exercise because it involves all three types of physical activity – strength, endurance and flexibility. Gardening encourages the use of motor skills, through gardening tasks like digging and planting seeds. And though some seniors may have restrictions on their physical activity, gardening tasks and equipment can be modified to meet their needs. Because gardening is a moderate impact workout, it helps release endorphins that relieve stress—as does the beauty of the “Eden” that you may create in or outside your home.

It doesn’t take much money to get your garden going—and it can save you money in the end. With small modifications, objects that are already around the house can be turn in to the perfect gardening tools. Old food tubs can be transformed into planting containers for your seeds. Old coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps can be used as compost for your garden. It is also more cost efficient to purchase seeds instead of seedlings and plants.

Large spaces are not necessary for a garden; they can be grown on rooftops, trellises and even in small spaces in and around your home. Gardens can help spruce up a living space, eliminate the need for store-bought vegetables, and be a hobby.

So, how do you start?
•Before constructing your garden, survey the area you have designated for your garden. If you are planting outside, consult an USDA Hardiness Zone map to understand the climate you are living in. This map will help you decide which plants will flourish in your garden. If you are planting inside it would be beneficial to determine how much sun and shade the area gets because this will also help determine what plants will thrive in the garden. Physically measuring the space will also help you decide the type of plants to grow in the garden.

•After you have a general design for your garden, you must decide where the water will come from. Will you use a hose or a watering can?

•If you are planning an outside garden, it is recommended that you start your seedlings inside—especially if temperatures are still cool—and then move outside when the weather warms. Seedlings can be planted in recycled receptacles such as egg cartons and cleaned yogurt containers. Just be sure to put in enough holes for proper drainage.

•The next step is cleaning up the designated area, by removing stones, weeds and branches, and preparing the soil for you seedlings. Check the acidity of the soil as well as the nutrient levels. Most seed packages provide information on the plant and the conditions necessary for it to grow, including the type of soil, degree of moisture and light and quantity of fertilizer.

Now you are ready to dig in and try your hand at what is considered to be one America’s favorite hobbies.

Courtney Bonaparte

Special to the AFRO