Have you ever picked up a hoe and pounded the dirt? Got down on your knees and ripped out weeds with gusto? Cut flowers from around the garden for a beautiful bouquet in your kitchen? All these are great releases for me! If I'm frustrated, needing some time-alone, or just need to bring some femininity into my male-household, the garden is my release! It gets me outside for fresh air. It helps me take deep breaths when I feel like blowing my top. It takes my mind off of things I can't control.
I know that I'm not alone with these thoughts. According to the University of Minnesota, "[Gardening] can divert thoughts about yourself and your situation. In the garden, you can create and control your environment. This control is empowering. Gardening stimulates all of the senses, giving great pleasure and satisfaction." Empower yourself! Built up stress is not healthy! What a great release.
Also involve your children. Make gardening fun! Give them an area of the garden to keep and make it fun for them! Plastic shovels, Tonka trucks, plants of their liking... whatever works! "While service-members face challenges on the battlefield, continued deployments also can be demanding for families at home. Children waiting for a parent to come back home are often vulnerable to stress, depression and anxiety." -Children's deployment stress may mirror parents. Perhaps a "Deployment-Garden" is in order this spring!
The more you exert yourself, the greater the benefits. "Household and yard activities increase metabolic rate threefold to fivefold," says Steven Blair, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina and coauthor of "Active Living Every Day" (Human Kinetics Publishers; 2001). (Read more at Marthastewart.com: Reap the Benefits of Gardening - Martha Stewart Home and Garden)
Remember that hoe you were swinging to get rid of some of the emotional stress of the day? Well, guess what? You also were burning calories & working muscle tone! Grab two watering cans to water the front gardens and it's like lifting a set of dumb-bells. Bending, pulling and lifting are frequent movements when tending to your plot of earthly-goodness. This improves limberness. There is a lot to be said about a garden and physical exercise. Whenever I spend a chunk of time in the garden my heart rate goes up, I sweat, I crave a shower . Ok, it is not a pretty picture but you get the idea. Gardening is so much better for me than a jog around the block! It's hard work, that is well worth it.
Healthy Food on hand
My 4 year-old is not a fan of vegetables or fruit; until he was introduced to the garden cucumber and the snap-pea he could take right off of the vine. Those two things he will devour. Especially if he helps pick them! I've noticed he is venturing to liking new vegetables now that he has had a taste in his mouth that he likes. I love the joy in my boys' eyes as they tell friends about our garden or walk with me as we take inventory of what is growing. I love grabbing a cucumber mid-day chopping it up as a snack and watching the boys devour it! - What is in your Garden? - Military Family Life Question of the Week
There is something delicious about preservative-free, fresh from the earth, sun-kissed, vegetable-goodness! A fresh cucumber for a mid-afternoon snack; a simple salad with lettuce, tomatoes and carrots at dinner; homemade salsa while relaxing at night. These are all great additions to a healthy diet. Psychologically, too, I believe that since you put work into it you will be more prone to eat it. (I'm starting to shed my winter-pounds just thinking about all this healthy food!)
Not sure what you want to plant? Look for some recipes that intrigue you, "Colors to crunch, munch" has some ideas as well as Five recipes that are fresh, fast and full of flavor. Then get to planning and planting!
Teaching Science and Nutrition
My kids are gardeners. Since they were two they have helped me plant:
Every year I get a seed starter / greenhouse tray and the boys help pick out what we want to grow that year. We don't have a huge vegetable-garden. It is probably 2ft by 10ft. Just big enough that we can plant 3 or 4 different vegetables. I have a different part of our garden devoted to my favorite thing to grow, herbs. So today we started our 'gardening season'. The boys and I pulled out our seed starter & we put two seeds in each pod. We talked about what we were growing, how the plants will need sun and water to grow, where the seeds came from. It was a great scientific conversation as we put each seed in. It certainly got their minds spinning! - A Minute out of the Norm: Plant Some Seeds
I'm not a home-schooler. I'm not a nutritionist or scientist. But I do a lot of teaching at home. I enjoy making learning a passion, in the every day. Gardening is a big source of material for me! From nutrition, to life-cycle, to conservation and being good-stewards of this earth. The family garden is a major contributor to our educational experience!
If you do decide to involve your children here is a great primer "Kids Gardening Primer". It talks about how to keep kids interested in gardening from preschool through the teen years! I hope that my two middle sons , 5 and 8, are as interesting in gardening in 10 years as they are today!
I like this tip from the The American Institute of Cancer Research: "Try to stick to a regular "garden exercise" routine. Rather than saving up your outdoor work for one marathon weekend session, schedule at least 30-60 minutes of gardening two or three times per week." For me a few moments spent in the garden every evening in the spring and summer and into autumn is a great end to the day. I exert the energy I need to relieve stress and burn a few calories. I can see the work I've done. I reap the reward of hard work in so many tangible (and intangible!) ways.
What's stopping you? Start this spring off with a small garden and watch your horizons expand! If you still aren't sure what you want to grow or when to plant things in your area check out this Growing Calendar from Burpee.com. All you need to do is enter your zip-code and it will tell you the what and when of a garden!
- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com
PS - Want to read more thoughts about Gardening from the MilitaryAvenue.com Team? Checkout our 'keyword' Garden. We have quite a bit for you!