One of my winter projects has been planting a little vegetable garden in my side yard. With temperatures that range between a nighttime low of 60 degrees and and a daytime high of 80, South Florida’s fall-to-spring growing season is the inverse of that “up north.” While I’m feeling a little chilly as I write on this unusually cool 50 degree early morning on my screened-in porch, my old home community of Albany in upstate New York is registering a windchill temperature of minus 15.

My garden is tiny: five little cherry tomato plants, a couple of green peppers plants, and parsley, cilantro, and basil. And my husband recently replaced a diseased lime tree with a small Meyer lemon tree, and the dear little thing has already bloomed and begun growing teeny fruits.

In her recent article for the Fremont News Messenger, master gardener Susan La Fountaine lists five ways in which gardening is good for you.

Gardening gets YOU OUTDOORS

Although I get outside quite a bit, all but an hour or so tends to be sedentary. After my daily morning walk with Kumba, our rescue black Lab, I can sit for hours in my favorite writing room, the porch. My new veggie plot gets me out to the side yard every day to water, snip, and admire what nature is doing.

Gardening Increases your Strength and Flexibility

From clearing the old flower bed to enriching the soil, I’ve used different muscles to prepare for and tend my small plot. My husband takes on bigger projects, most recently clearing out a palm tree plot and adding mulch and decorative stone. You can imagine the body work involved in creating this amazing backyard retreat.

Gardening helps you Lose Weight

Researchers have found that carrying mulch bags, pushing a wheelbarrow, hoeing, picking weeds, planting seeds, toting your gardening equipment, moving pots, pushing a mower, and all the other gardening tasks suggest that women can lose 11 pounds and men 16 during the growing season.

Susan La Fountaine

Gardening Adds Fresh Food to Your Diet

There is nothing better than picking a couple of sun-warmed tomatoes and basil for a salad. A handful of parsley adds vitamins A and B and a full daily dose of Vitamin K to just about anything.

Gardening Increases your hope for the future

From planning my little plot on a piece of paper, to planting the seedlings, to nurturing their growth, to popping that first sweet tomato into my mouth, gardening is an act of hope.

The two fruit trees that stand in our side yard are a shining example of this: the mango tree and the avocado tree both began as pits which I coaxed into rooting, planted in small containers as they grew into seedlings, and planted in the ground as the tree emerged. The avocado has produced for three years, and I’ve told the mango I want it to catch up and give us fruit this year.

Gardening improves your physical and mental health

From getting us outdoors, to working our bodies, to improving our mental outlook, gardening is good for us. Wishing my readers in northern climes a cheery planning season and the hope that warmer days are ahead!

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