Whether it’s the feel of the earth in your hands or the warm sun on your back, when it comes to benefits, gardeners get them in spades. And one of those benefits just might be a longer life expectancy. It’s true, according to Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” 1 In his book, Buettner highlights the habits of people who live the longest around the world. And those who live long take part in regular, low-intensity activity, such as gardening.
Are there other boons for gardeners? You bet. A diet enriched with vitamin D from safe sun exposure and the vitamins and minerals that come from eating homegrown fruits and veggies add to the growing list. It’s not shock to learn diet and exercise are good for you, but did you know, for gardeners, stress can be easier to manage, too?1 If you’re looking for ways to green your thumb and start taking part in benefits like these, here’s how:
A great spot for a starter garden has sun, close proximity to water and shelter from wind and other inclement weather. Start small, a 4 x 4 or 4 x 8 plot in an area that will allow for expansion down the line is ideal. Short on space? Plant your crop in containers. Many vegetables and herbs grow just as well in containers as they do in beds. A quick internet search can reveal which varieties work best for your particular space.
Smart planting means efficiently using whatever amount of space you have. Ditch flat rows and implement raised beds to maximize your area. Use trellises for climbers like beans, peas, cucumbers or some tomatoes. (Check plant tags or talk to garden experts to make sure selections are meant to climb.) Consider mature height and arrange so large plants don’t prevent small ones from getting the sun they need.
As you get some gardening experience under your belt, it can be easy to create habits, like planting the same varieties in the same spot or container year after year. But don’t; try something new each year. Just like farmers rotate their crops, you should, too. Keep your soil rich in nutrients by switching up what you plant and where you plant it.
As your green thumb develops, you’ll also find yourself wanting to grow different fruits and veggies. While making selections, think about harvest time. Choose items that are ready in spring, summer and fall, or throughout the year, if you’re lucky enough to experience a year-long growing season. Gardening will keep you moving, growing your own food, providing the nutrients your body needs, reducing stress and just maybe, help you live longer. What‘s better than that?
Looking for other ways to relieve stress? Check out these posts:
1 Okinawa's Longevity Lessons." Blue Zones. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 June 2017.