After a winter that left many people self-isolating at home to try to avoid COVID-19 exposure, spring is finally on the horizon. If you are a senior with a love of gardening, one way to continue safely enjoying this hobby is container gardening. Digging in the dirt has a variety of health benefits, especially for older adults.
Health Benefits for Older Gardeners
Gardening is good for the body, mind, and spirit. It’s linked to lower blood pressure, better core strength, and reduced stress. That’s on top of having fresh vegetables and herbs to cook with and flowers to bring indoors all season long.
For older adults who’ve experienced a fall or those with a mobility challenge, planting a garden in containers, window boxes, and raised beds can be a safe solution. It’s a way to enjoy nature without having to bend over, stoop, and kneel.
Tips for Container Garden Success
A few suggestions for growing your herbs, vegetables, and flowers in containers this summer include:
- Focus on favorite plants: Look for ideas on Pinterest or gardening sites like Proven Winners. It will help you identify the types of flowers you enjoy most and design attractive container gardens. Be mindful of how much sunlight your designated space receives each day. Does your porch or raised bed area receive full sun, part sun and part shade, or mostly shade? Your container garden’s ability to thrive depends on matching the plants to the sun coverage your garden receives.
- Choose containers wisely: Another factor is the pot you will plant in. If you use a metal container placed in full sun, the roots may overheat. A chemically treated wood pot might result in those chemicals leeching into the soil your herbs or vegetables grow in. Plants that need deep roots should be planted in a tall container. The opposite is also true. If you plan to grow flowers in a hanging basket, choose plants that stay small and have a shallow root system.
- Invest in good potting soil: Healthy soil is the foundation for a thriving container garden. An organic material that holds water is best for pots or raised beds. Your local garden center may carry a regional blend, which ensures the soil you use is appropriate for where you live. If you don’t have any luck, home improvement stores sell prepackaged potting soil specifically designed for container gardens.
- Ensure proper drainage: Another essential is good drainage for your container garden. It protects the roots from rotting. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, you can usually add a few with a drill or awl. Once you have drainage holes, place a small piece of screen over the holes to keep the dirt from washing away. If it’s not possible to drill or punch drainage holes, cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of stone or gravel.
One final tip is to remember that container gardens require more frequent watering than in-ground gardens. If dragging a hose or watering can around the yard is difficult for you, try to place your containers near a water source.
Summer Safety for Senior Gardeners
Remember to be safe when gardening outdoors in warm months. Stay hydrated, especially on hot, humid days. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Also wear a hat that shields your neck and face. Finally, garden early in the morning or later in the evening so you avoid the hottest times of day.
Gardening is just one of the many activities residents at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana enjoy. Call the community nearest you to learn more about the healthy lifestyle you can enjoy when you make a move this spring or summer!