How gardening can boost your health and promote longevity
Check out Junior enjoying my herb garden. Junior is a foster dog I took care of a few years ago. He was found as a stray and as soon as he came to my house, he was drawn to my herb garden. He loved to rest and nap right in the middle of my thyme. He was so happy lounging in the middle of the herbs. I didn't have the heart to make him get out. I think animals of all kinds are instinctively drawn to the beauty of plants.
The act of gardening has been described as a "meaningful occupation" as far back as 1930's. During that time most occupational therapists worked in hospitals to help people with hobbies and leisure activities to support their health and recovery. Since the beginning of the profession, occupational therapy has realized that staying involved in meaningful activities like gardening promotes overall health and wellness. Now, there is research to support that gardening (digging in the dirt/planting, looking at flowers, viewing nature) can have a positive impact on our physical and mental health!
“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul.” – Luther Burbank
Tip #1 - Keep at least one plant inside
Research suggests that indoor air pollution is often worse than outdoor air pollution. Thankfully the research also suggests that houseplants can help reduce indoor air pollution and help us breathe easier! Besides helping to filter the air, houseplants can boost mood and productivity! Plants can be a lot of work but also bring a lot of joy. If you have a black thumb consider one of these indoor plants that require the least amount of care.
String of Pearls
Snake plant (mother in laws tongue)
“Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer.” ― Patricia R. Barrett
Tip #2 - Consider Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a way of growing fruits, vegetables, or plants without dirt! Plants are grown using a nutrient-rich water-based solution. There are a variety of hydroponic stands that you can buy that range from a small desktop device for lettuce to a full tower that has multiple growing levels. Most hydroponic systems come with built-in lighting to promote growth. Check out this stand from Lettuce Grow. Hydroponics is a great way of growing produce all year long. You can purchase a small stand from Amazon for as low as $40.00
Check out this tip sheet from the USDA with everything you need to know about hydroponics at home.
Tip #3 - Consider raised beds or pots
Raised beds are a great way to make gardening a little easier. I have tried carrots in the past, but never with much luck. Last year, I planted the carrots in my raised beds and I had a bumper crop! The looser soil seemed to work really well for the carrots and it was a LOT easier for me to manage. Having a few raised beds can help you stay organized and in control. Raised beds are also easier to plant in and take care of if you have trouble getting down to the ground. There are a variety of sizes and styles of raised beds.
“Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds. The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.” — William Wordsworth
Tip #4 - Plant vegetables or plants that trellis
Vegetables that trellis can be easier to pick and can take up less ground space. If you are looking for a vegetable that is easy to harvest, plants that trellis are a good option. Cucumbers, squash, or pole beans are good options. Last year I had a good crop of butternut squash. They grew on the trills and required very little to no care. The best part about butternut squash is they last a long time after they are picked and they are not prone to bugs or pests.
Tip #5 - Explore adaptive equipment
Ratchet trimmer, ergonomic gardening tools, convertible kneeling or sitting stool, thumb brace, and re-chargeable battery trimmer.
There are more options than ever to make your gardening adventure easier. Working in the garden is a great form of exercise and research has found that when you pair exercise with the great outdoors the benefit is even greater!
If you have arthritis, gardening can be extra difficult. It takes a lot of hand and upper body work that can be irritating if you have arthritis. However, avoiding the activity is not the right answer. I highly recommend wearing protective splints or braces when working in the yard to reduce joint strain. I have a personal history of tennis elbow that is often irritated by yard work. When I go out in the yard, I always make sure to wear my brace and this keeps me from overdoing it and protects my wrist and elbow from overuse.
Arthritis in the thumb is one of the most common issues I see in my clients with arthritis. Check out this thumb splint on Amazon. It is often, easy to put wash, washable, and helps support your thumb during activities that require a lot of gripping. You might also consider compression gloves or wrist braces to protect your hands and arms.
Check out this amazing resource on gardening with arthritis!!
Dig in and Grow on!
It is hard to ignore the physical and mental health benefits of gardening. I understand that taking care of plants and managing a garden can get harder as we get older. If you or a loved one is struggling to do the things that they enjoy in the yard or garden or to maintain houseplants, reach out to your occupational therapist. There are a variety of tools and adaptions that can help you keep digging. Check out the list below for links to the products I have mentioned in this blog.
Thank you for reading!
Gardening products from Amazon
Battery Trimmer: https://a.co/d/hrClBZC
Thumb Splint: https://a.co/d/85gPB2F
Ergonomic gardening tools: https://a.co/d/57qL5Bd
Ratchet trimmer: https://a.co/d/57qL5Bd
Gardening stool: https://a.co/d/57qL5Bd