Sunshine and fresh air offer a boost to the body, mind, and spirit, especially after a long, cold winter. Planting and tending to a garden can also help lower blood pressure, maintain core strength, and beat stress. Finally, there are the rewards of a garden — fresh flowers and vegetables all summer long.
While gardening can become a little more challenging with age, there are lots of ways to safely enjoy this favorite pastime. From growing vegetables in raised beds to planting a container herb garden, here are a few ideas to try this summer.
Building Raised Beds
If your balance isn’t as good as it once was, growing your garden in a raised bed might be a solution. You can have these built to a height that is easy for you to reach without bending or stooping. This lowers the risk for falling, while also protecting your back.
Home improvement stores and specialty garden stores sell kits online that make assembling your own raised garden bed easy. Local lumber stores sell them as well, and they often have names of contractors who can build them for you.
A few factors to keep in mind as you plan your raised garden beds:
- Consider the location: Are you looking to grow plants or flowers that require full sun or shade? Make sure your desired location is a match for what you want to grow.
- Consult a local expert: While experts recommend your raised bed have enough space for 6-12 inches of dirt, where you live can impact that number. You’ll also want a soil that combines topsoil with coconut coir (for drainage) and compost. Adding a layer of mulch or straw to the top might help keep the bed from drying out.
- Have good drainage: Make sure to drill holes in the bottom of your raised garden bed, and to put down a layer of material such as crushed stone or pea gravel to allow for good drainage.
- Think of what to plant: Root vegetables, such as carrots, radishes, and beets, grow well in raised beds. Leafy greens (e.g., lettuces, spinach, and kale) are another option. These vegetables are easy to plant to get your raised garden started.
One final tip is to water plants in a raised garden bed frequently, especially on hot days. They require more water than gardens planted directly into the ground.
Container Garden Tips for Seniors
Container gardens are another option for older adults to consider. Pots of all sizes, as well as window boxes, allow you to create easy-to-access gardens. While terra cotta or concrete planters offer a more traditional look, heavy-duty plastic or a plastic blend may be easier to move around.
Many herbs, tomatoes, and flowers can grow quite well in containers. You can grow the pots together for more impact. Here are a few tips to keep your container gardens thriving:
- Quality soil: Soil should include organic material that holds water. If your local garden center doesn’t sell a region-specific mix, you can purchase a prepackaged one like Miracle Gro. You’ll find bags with mixes designed specifically for container gardens.
- Good drainage: Like raised garden beds, you’ll want to make sure your containers have good drainage and drainage holes. Vermiculite, perlite, sand, and even kitty litter can allow water and air to make their way through the soil.
- Plant choices: A rule of thumb for planting eye-catching container gardens is to choose a thriller, a spiller, and a filler. That means giving your container something taller to catch interest, a trailing plant or vine to spill over the edge, and plants of moderate height to fill in between the first two. A spike, a palm, or a type of decorative grass make nice center plants. Trailing plants like wave petunias, bacopa, and creeping Jenny are attractive editions to container gardens.
One final tip is to stay hydrated anytime you are gardening or enjoying time in the great outdoors. The article 6 Steps for Avoiding Dehydration offers ideas for doing just that.