It’s been a slow way out of winter this year, but I think we’ve officially done it.
The slogan that comes to mind: “Spring has arrived!”
I can’t help but adore the birds singing outside my window each morning and excitedly watching the tree buds emerge a little more each day. Bright green strands are already rising through the earth, announcing the arrival of spring.
It’s also exciting to think about the coming summer.
Summer means a lot of things to different people, but for a dietitian, it’s all about fresh produce.
You can find fresh food everywhere: roadside stalls, local farmers’ markets, and your favorite grocery stores.
For me, the start of the new season also means it’s time to start thinking about my garden. I encourage you to consider planting a garden this year.
Why? Consider that old saw, “If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day.” Teach him to fish, he eats all his life. Teach him how to garden, then the whole neighborhood gets tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons and more.
Growing your own food is one of the many joys of gardening. You may find great pleasure in having the opportunity to share your local food with others.
But the joys don’t end there – and neither do the benefits.
Here’s a rundown of the benefits you can reap when you dig and get your hands dirty a bit:
Health and fitness
Gardening really is an exercise and a great low impact exercise.
When you garden, you use many muscle groups while increasing your flexibility and strength.
You can burn up to 45 calories in just 30 minutes of gardening. Raised flower beds or pots are a great way to make gardening easier for those with physical challenges.
In a wired and hyper-connected world, gardening is pretty much the best way to unplug.
There is something to dig into the earth that remains original and unchanged. You have to get the job done, there are no shortcuts, and you have to patiently wait for the rewards – the beautiful flowers and generous bounty.
It’s an unbeatable way to disconnect from the sensory overload of modern society. Many people find gardening not only an uplifting hobby, but also a great stress reliever. The sights, smells and sounds of gardening promote relaxation and serenity.
For older people, a few hours a week in the garden can help reduce social isolation.
The foods you grow on your own can be the freshest, cleanest foods you’ll eat year round.
Fruits and vegetables from your own garden are high in nutrients, but it is also rewarding to know how they have been grown and processed.
It is often said that people who garden eat more fruits and vegetables per day than their peers. Children who practice gardening are also more likely to try new things and eat more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
It is undeniable that local foods taste the best.
If you’re planning to enter the gardening world this spring, here are some quick tips to consider:
- Location, location, location. Consider how much square footage you have. Do you have a lot or section that would be perfect for a raised bed? You can even use your open patio for potted plants.
- Let us let the Sun in. Think about where the sun is best in your available space and plant accordingly. Gardens need a lot of sunlight to thrive.
- Water at your fingertips. Try to plant your garden in an area where water is easily accessible.
- Just start. Consider starting with flowers, herbs, and easy vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, and carrots.
Gardening is sometimes a process. It doesn’t all happen overnight and it’s not about having an award-winning garden. It’s about enjoying the process and the many benefits.
Angela Fobar is a Registered Dietitian at Spectrum Health, specializing in clinical work, outpatient counseling, community classes and outreach.