Gardening is one of the most satisfying and therapeutic activities a senior adult can tackle independently. Many can enjoy the satisfaction of creating something from virtually nothing. What begin as tiny seeds which germinate into something that’s living and bearing edibles is almost tantamount to magic. Planting vegetables and flowers is an exciting activity, regardless of age.
And whether you own or rent your living space doesn’t matter. You don’t necessarily need a large plot of land to make the most of a particular growing season to teach yourself how to enjoy this most fulfilling outdoor activity.
If you think that you are limited in your gardening endeavors because you’re short on yard space or you live in an apartment, an assisted living facility or with family, not to worry! There are plenty of options in terms of small-scale gardening for you.
The “garden” space can be adjusted for what you’re working with. An urban garden can easily be created using pots, bags, or vertical growing methods like troughs and window boxes. Another small-space idea is to try an over-the-door shoe organizer garden for herbs or flowers. You might have an extra one of these around the house.
If you own your home and you don’t mind appropriating some of the ornamental space, get started by digging up a square foot garden bed and then get to sorting and sowing those seeds!
If you are planning for a Spring garden, you’ll need to start germinating your seeds in February or March. Make sure to follow the directions on the back of the seed packets and adhere to the planting recommendations for your climate.
Depending on your locale, there are specific planting recommendations for winter planting. Most guides suggest tomatoes, squash, eggplant, beans, corn, cucumber, and the like. Sunflowers, marigolds, and radishes are also options.
Sunflowers are a great choice because they produce edibles: sunflower seeds! If you are not able to eat them yourself due to dietary or dental restrictions, they make excellent bird feed for a bird feeder. Additionally, sunflowers are a fun plant to grow because they are a bit of a novelty. They can grow very, very tall, and they are eye catching: they are brightly colored and beautiful. A few important things to note are that sunflowers need a lot of water and sunlight. Because these flowers are so visually striking, your might like to cut a few and put some in water inside to serve as a reminder of a job well done.
You could grow a few successfully and cut some for a gift, or intrigue your grandchildren with the wonders of these magical, fascinating flowers.
All of those reasons make this flower an interesting and worthwhile choice for one’s planting garden.
Cherry or Plum Tomatoes
These “vegetables” are actually fruits, but who’s counting? They are delicious to adults and kids alike, and as long as you stay organic—and I sincerely hope you do— they can be eaten right “in the field” which makes it infinitely more fun. Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene which is believed to decrease prostate cancer risk. You can buy seed packets in several varieties of bright colors. There is literally a sunburst rainbow to choose from. This type of tomato grows easily in less than ideal conditions and you can start it anytime throughout the summer for a late harvest.
Marigolds, or calendulas, are a great choice because they are easy to grow, super-hardy, and they act as a natural pest-repellent against the parasitic bugs that want to feast on the tomatoes, sunflowers, and others plants you’ve worked so hard to raise. Specifically, marigolds repel nematodes, tomato worms, slugs, and other pests.
If you start companion planting the marigolds and using them as a “plant border”, they can help ward off those nasty pests.
And if you are feeling adventurous in the kitchen, marigolds are actually good to eat!
Radishes begin germinating very fast, so you do not have to wait long for gratification. They can be ready to harvest in as little as 25 days, and, if you have visiting grand-kids or young neighbors about, they’ll love plucking them straight from the soil. Like the cherry tomatoes, radishes come in fun colors as well. There are even some called “Easter Egg” variety that are purple, red, and white and shaped just like eggs!
Here’s five essential reasons you’ll want to incorporate gardening into your lifestyle:
Five Benefits of Gardening for Seniors:
Relatively Low-Cost & Accessible
Your future “plot” awaits you right in your front or backyard–usually where there is the most sustained sunlight–or on a patio or porch. And at the cost of a few seed packets and some potting soil, this is a super cheap summer activity that will keep on giving for about eight to ten weeks.
Therapeutic: Lowers Stress and Anxiety Levels
The anxiety reduction benefits of gardening are incomparable. The repetitive cadence of raking, digging, or even weeding can be meditative and soothing for gardeners of all ages. Gardening and “Plant Therapy” are on the list of Lifestyle Change Recommendations for reduced anxiety and improved mental health, according to PsychologyToday and The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Provides A Tangible Source of Accomplishment & Pride
Gardening takes commitment and sustained effort, but there’s a payoff! You will have to be diligent in watering the plants regularly, checking to make sure they are looking healthy, and keeping them in direct sunlight (or shade) as directed. You might be surprised at how much pride you take in your “green pets” and the fact that they are thriving thanks to your hard work and dedication.
Reinforces Healthy Eating Habits
Practically nothing beats fresh produce, and definitely not artificial, prepackaged foods full of preservatives. It can be easy to eat unhealthily when fresh food isn’t readily available, but what if it were right outside your front door? A successful summer garden project gives you an opportunity to get excited about eating the right foods in the most organic, fresh, and eco-friendly way possible!
Promotes Self-Esteem, Positive Personal Identity and Internal Locus of Control
The exercise that gardening provides can yield a self-esteem revolution for you. It promotes positive personal identity: one rooted in hard work, strength, and perseverance. Gardening yields a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, especially when there’s suddenly head high sunflowers or that first tomato ready for picking. It’s a great feeling and you’ll know you’ve worked hard for it!