Health Benefits of Fall Gardening
By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener, MS Biology
Here we are in the hottest, most humid month of the year. Wow! Who in their right mind is enduring these temperatures, fighting off pests, and drought to garden? It does seem like an unhealthy tortuous activity – unless you are a seasoned gardener.
The summer trips to the garden are earlier in the cooler morning when the birds are chirping and a glistening dew is on the vegetables and flowers. In this serene time, an inspection for pests is not a chore, but a look into the health and balance of life in the garden. A hand spray of neem oil or a mist of horticultural oil takes care of most pests. The timer and watering system are checked, and a few weeds are pulled or scraped. Fresh vegetables like peas, okra, and squash are harvested for daily consumption. So begins the day with a relaxing and rewarding activity that sets a non-stressful mood for the day.
Next, is the fall garden which is my favorite. The vegetables which include a whole spectrum of healthy nutrients from carrot beta carotene to anticancer agents in kale are only part of the health advantages of gardening. The regular physical exercise aids in the prevention of heart disease, obesity, adult-onset diabetes and high blood pressure. “Compost turning strength-training” is important in the prevention of osteoporosis. Lift and push a wheelbarrow around to have a complete workout without the transportation and cost of a gym workout. “Gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor.”
Fall gardening provides fresh fruits and vegetables. When you grow your own food, it will be on your table within hours of harvesting without vitamin loss. The family will enjoy the fresh taste, the money saved, and the satisfaction of self-sufficiency. Be sure to plant blueberries, Satsuma’s, plums, and apples this fall for seasonal treats and a cornucopia of healthy nutrients. New flavors and varieties of vegetables add spice and nutrition to the family diet. My son would not eat peas until we introduced him to fresh “Quick Picks” straight from the garden. The flavor of kale cooked with sausage bits also became his favorite. Also when you grow your own food you have control over pesticides, plant genetic choices, and fertilizers that are used. Add herbs to “Kick it up a Notch” in enhancing flavor, yet reducing sugar and salt. Try herbs early in your gardening experience. The aromas and ease of gardening will increase your success and pleasure of gardening.
Gardening is a pleasant brain workout with creativity, research, and planning. Let your persona come out with your garden plans. Take Master Gardener Courses offered by the LSU AgCenter (337-462-7006) to stimulate and encourage your creativity. Find a whole wealth of information on the internet. Interact and exchange ideas with other Master Gardeners. Get connected. Everyone likes to talk to a gardener.
Studies have shown that gardening provides a natural rhythm of life in stressful world. You become more knowledgeable and appreciable of nature. You become aware that a garden is not picture perfect all the time, but your labor can usually restore problems. Just viewing a garden or nature has healthy psychological benefits.
Gardening is good for family bonding and for people with special needs. Kids and people with handicaps can enjoy garden activities as a form of physical therapy. This hobby increases range of motion, improves motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and increases self-confidence. Raised beds that are 24 inches high are accessible to wheel chairs and elementary kids. Many new gardens tools are now designed for little ones, and for those with physical limitations.
Begin the planning now, and plant your garden this fall. Start small for success, then work your way up to more complex gardening challenges. Whether you try a deep flower pot for carrots or a hydroponic greenhouse, enjoy the journey, learn new techniques, try new varieties, and have a healthy hobby!