Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The myriad benefits of working in your garden

 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

As I write this article, a mighty mountain awaits me. In my side yard, three massive piles have merged to become my own personal Mulch Everest — the result of three truckloads of tree-trimmer goodness that were deposited just a few days ago.

It is up to me to spread my Everest, and I relish the task. Not only will the mulch beautify my plantings and slowly decompose to add organic nutrients to my soil, I will also get a very nice bit of exercise. Why should I spend hours on the elliptical machine or pounding the free weights when an excellent full-body strength and cardio workout is piled high a stone’s throw away? I will spread my mulch, which will enrich my garden’s poor soil and help to suppress weeds, and as I do, my home gym will come to life.

There are countless ways to exercise in your garden — pulling weeds, tilling soil, pruning trees and digging holes are all outstanding ways to stay fit. Add in South Florida’s warm temperatures and you have the makings of a weight-loss and body-strengthening routine that you can be proud of.

Working in your garden also has the added benefits of fighting depression and synthesizing vitamin D. Simply Google “Ways to Beat Depression” and you will find page after page advising you to “expose yourself to sunlight each day and exercise,” among other worthy tips. And while you are spending time in the sun improving your state of mind, your body is able to make vitamin D, which is responsible for intestinal absorption of crucial calcium and phosphate.

Taking care of your garden gives you something else — a better looking yard. When you take time to prune a shrub or weed a planting bed, the result is something much better than what you started with. A well-kept yard will add value to your home and create a pleasant place for you and your family to spend time.

Finally, working in your garden is also good for your mind. I have a degree in horticulture and have read countless books on the subject, but I have had no greater teacher than my garden. Working in the garden allows me to see exactly what will work and why. By paying close attention to what I see, I have access to a world of knowledge.

If you can grow a certain plant a certain way in your garden, then you know it will work. When you see a ladybug feeding on pesky aphids, you know you won’t have to spray pesticides. Books and Internet articles are excellent ways to get information, but supplementing that knowledge with a keen eye and an inquisitive mind is extremely important. If my garden has taught me anything, it is that experience never lies.

Now that the temperatures are a bit cooler, take time to work in your garden and take advantage of the multitude of benefits it has to offer. A better body, spirit and mind await you. What are you waiting for?

Jeff Wasielewski is an outreach specialist at Fairchild, an expert in South Florida horticulture and a professor of horticulture at Miami Dade College. He can be reached at jeffw@fairchildgarden.org.

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