Five Ways That Gardening is Good for You

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!

My Coming Out Party

Two months ago today, my husband, Ray, and I flew home to Florida from Amsterdam, where I’d become critical ill during a vacation. OLVG Hospital was my home for many weeks: the ICU saved my life and the 7AGastroenterology Unit helped me become familiar with myself again. We miss that amazing community, and this note from my doctor shows you why.

In the past two months, after being cleared by the University of Florida’s Shands, my new go-to hospital, I have made steady progress in holding up my own weight and walking: from a rented Rollator, the sturdy walker similar to the one my mother called “My Cadillac;” to a no-seater; to a cane; to no assistance most of the time.

My basket of home-gym tools is no longer dusty, and my workouts at FYZICAL physical therapy are encouraging and wonderfully exhausting. My body lets me know when I’ve done enough. Sometimes all that means is that I need to stop reading and do nothing for a bit. Sometimes I’m plain tuckered out. One rotten thing about lying in a hospital bed all day is that you don’t have the “ahh” moment when it comes to relaxing into a bed for sleep. I was never a napper; I am now!

As I make progress, I am frequently thinking back to the wise advice I got from one of my OLVG doctors: don’t stress about making it “all the way back” to however you were before your illness; aim for small goals and enjoy the process of being able to recover; and there will be days in which you will feel you are going backwards, rather than forwards.

I had one of those days on Friday. The most I achieved was watching recorded episodes of Dr. Who (we became BBC fans while in Amsterdam) and about six hours of House while lying in bed eating crackers and sipping milk. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling sorry for my sad self that I realized being able to watch a show about hospital life meant that I am indeed making progress. Even if it still hurts to roll over.

I wasn’t at all sure I would be strong enough to carry through on our Colombian neighbors’ invitation to lunch, and I knew it was a stretch for my husband, who is battling his own way back from being a shocked spouse in a strange city hoping his wife will live. We’ve kept to ourselves most of the past two months.

Ajiaco, pandebono and empandas, and avocados were yesterday’s luscious lunch

But, my friend was serving ajiaco, the stew made in Bogotá that I had last tasted in 1971, when my parents, sister and I made a return trip to the city we’d called home in the ’60s. We were treated to orchids and ajiaco by very dear friends, Luis and Andres Cárdenas, boys who had grown to be handsome young men in the five years we’d been away. Their sisters Mai, Isabel, and Teresa and a cousin joined Luis and Andrés for photos in our old house.

The Cárdenas and Amerson kids reunited in Bogotá, 1971

We went. We had a wonderful time eating delicious food in Bogotano hospitality. It is like a miracle to have a friend down my street who knows that the furniture in our entryway is not just a bench but a Colombian escaño, just like I know that our delectable lunch was not a chicken stew but a Bogotá ajiaco.

Magic from the past, like a path back to childhood.