We’ve all heard that getting outside in the great outdoors is good for your health. But, while some of us channel our inner Bear Grylls, not all of us can claim to love the outdoors-y, backcountry, living-in-the-woods lifestyle.
You might not have the time to hike, have access to a nearby forest trail, or have the gear for camping. We hear you, and we’ve got a solution: gardening. With gardening, you can get outside and connect with nature while reducing stress and getting in some exercise (even if it’s just a little, depending on the size of your yard).
Here are 5 simple tips for beginners to get your garden, and green thumb, going:
Pick out a solid plot
You don’t need acres of space to get things growing. The secret is location, location, location. Put your plants somewhere in your yard or on your deck that you’ll see often, so you’re more likely to take care of them.
Bear in mind where your sun and water sources are as well. Do some research into the rays your plants need to thrive—many veggies, flowers or herbs need at least 5-6 hours of sun a day to get their grow on.
Don’t have a yard? Don’t fret. Container and pot planting are becoming more and more popular. The number of veggies that can’t grow in a good-sized pot are limited so if you’re tight for space, this is a good solution for you.Tom Ciprian, Artisan Garden Group, Burnaby BC
Get the good soil
Just like us, the better fuel plants have, the better they’ll do. Give them a good start with high-quality soil. If the dirt is dry and dusty, and you don’t want to touch it, it’s less likely your plants will thrive in it. Remember how awesome mud was when you were a kid? Rich, moist soil is a good way to start.
As much as sun and water are important to plants, so is the ground they grow in. Your local garden centre will have ready-made soil mixes depending on where you’re going to plant, such as in a container or in a raised garden bed.
As tempting as it can be to plant anything and everything, start with a few and build up as you get more confident keeping your plant buddies alive. Seeing a small number of plants thrive is much more rewarding than having them perish slowly because your budding brood was too large to manage.
Not sure where to start? Try growing petunias. They’re inexpensive and don’t need to be watered every day.
You can also try planting zucchini. It’s hardy, low maintenance, and within no time, you’ll be handing them out to everyone you pass by while dropping your kids off at school. Slice them in half and throw them right on the BBQ for an easy side dish.
Want to grow some veg? Grow the goods you know you’ll eat
While planting bright, bold and eye-catching things might be tempting, one way to start off is by growing plants that are actually useful to you. Having a garden of vegetables and herbs you often use and enjoy will make taking care of them that much easier.
A great starter plant is cherry tomatoes, and an easy-to-grow herb is rosemary. Put those together, and you’re halfway to a salad. Toss them with olive oil and a pinch of salt and roast them in the oven, and you’ve got another great side dish.
There’s nothing like growing your own vegetables and watching them produce from seed to table. There are so many low maintenance vegetables one can grow but some of the easiest and quickest growing vegetables are your leafy lettuces, spinach and kale varieties. These vegetables can grow in almost any type of soil and can benefit from sun and shade. Start with something like these to get started and maybe add some green onions and your garden will be green and full in no time!”Tom Ciprian, Artisan Garden Group, Burnaby BC
Make your garden more than just a garden
Accountability to keep your plants going can be a huge motivator to get out to feed and water. Try making your garden space more than just a space to put the plants; make it a place where you socialize too. What’s more motivating than the watchful eye of your buddies and a “hey man, what’s going on with the wilted plant?” from time to time.
If you have a yard, set up the BBQ close to your new plot. If you have a small planter on the deck, have it in the eye-line of your patio set. Make your garden a part of your home and a space your friends and family will enjoy.
Gardening—it’s good for you!
Gardening isn’t just a passive pastime; it’s actually great for you and helps keep you in top form. Here are the physical and mental health benefits of gardening:
Gardening is a hands-on sport, which means you have to unplug to get the most done. The time you spend in the garden, whether a few minutes or a few hours, ensures you get a chance to destress and focus on an immediate, quiet task. Basically, you get to recharge mentally while also being productive—a win-win.
There’s a great sense of accomplishment that comes when your flowers bloom, veg finally sprout, or that awesome plant grows its first new leaf. Gardening boosts self-esteem by giving you the chance to literally see the fruits of your labour.
Keeps your heart healthy and gives your body a workout
Yes, gardening is actually exercise! Whether you are digging and planting, raking or watering, gardening uses different muscles and varies from light to vigorous exercise depending on the work at hand.
Boosts your immune system
This little fact may not be well known, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Dirt has beneficial types of bacteria in it, so when you come in contact with it, you take in some of that healthy bacteria. This helps to boost your immune system. Next cold and flu season, ditch the Vicks Vaporub and slather your chest with a fist full of dirt instead. No, scratch that, stick with the Vicks.
Provides much-needed Vitamin D
When you’re outside keeping the plants on track, you’re also getting some much-needed vitamin D thanks to time in the sun (just be sure to have the sunscreen on hand too). Vitamin D helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and it also helps your muscles absorb calcium.
Helps you eat healthier
When you grow your own veg, herbs or fruit, you’re basically creating your own personal farm-to-table experience. You’re producing the food yourself and know what’s going into each carrot, zucchini, etc. And you’re growing the good stuff rather than resorting to something processed as you peruse the grocery store (which can also save you money—bonus!).
Socialising is good for all of us; it makes us feel connected. A garden helps create a space for you to hang out with your buddies, spend time with the kids, meet new people if you are working in a community garden, and more.
One of the best aspects of gardening is its low-cost to build. In fact, more and more planter boxes and pots are coming from recycled wood and old items around the house. Also, ask around your neighbourhood and community and ask if there’s any extra plants, seeds or soil available, you’ll be surprised how generous and excited other gardeners are to share, its actually incredible to see how unselfish gardeners tend to be about sharing and spreading the love of their garden with others.Tom Ciprian, Artisan Garden Group, Burnaby BC
Got some other tips for fellow budding green thumbs? Let us know in the comments which plants you find easy to grow and how you do it!