Gardening is good for you. So good in fact, it:
- Exercises your mind and body. Planning, preparing, planting, and tending to a garden gets you thinking and moving.
- Builds self-esteem. When you learn to grow plants, you learn an important life skill and accomplish something new, lighting up the reward activity center in your brain.
- Decreases your risk of dementia. Gardening may cut your chances of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50 percent, studies show.
- Lowers your blood pressure. Nature really is restorative!
- Reduces tension and stress. Being outside and gardening lowers your cortisol levels and can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, giving you a chance to focus on something and put your mind to a task with an end goal.
- Boosts your mood. Seeing plant life thrive and knowing you played a role in that growth is a smiling-inducing feat! Plus, gardening boosts your endorphin levels, and the daily dose of vitamin D does its job, too, in turn benefiting your bones and immune system.
- Saves you money. According to the National Gardening Association, for every $1 you put into your garden, you get $8 back.
- Gives you healthy produce. Fresh, local vegetables are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which has been shown to prevent cancer and promote health and wellbeing.
- Improves your quality of life. How could it not, with this long list of benefits?
No wonder gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in America.
What is Container Gardening
If you’re short on space or new to gardening, consider getting started with a container garden. Container gardening is when plants are grown in containers rather than in the ground.
You’ll be surprised by how many vegetables can be grown in a small area, and you’ll have the added advantage of being able to move your containers around, controlling the amount of sunlight and warmth each plant receives to maximize its growth and food production. Plus, very limited weeding!
How to Start Container Gardening
First, choose what you want to grow. Easy plants to grow include herbs such as parsley, chives, basil, mint, and thyme. Additionally, lettuces, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, aloe vera, and zucchini are also fairly easy to grow and are known to thrive with container gardening.
Next, select the containers you’ll use. Old wheelbarrows, recycled food containers such as yogurt cups, terracotta pots, empty milk jugs, window boxes, and buckets all make suitable pots for plants. Choose a larger size than you think you’ll need to allow enough room for roots to grow. Make sure each container is clean and has at least one drainage hole (about ½ inch in diameter), which you can drill in if your container doesn’t already have one.
Then, use a potting mix or make your own with garden soil, compost, peat, and vermiculite to put into the container and put in your seeds or seedlings. If using seeds, each seed packet will tell you what conditions the plants need in terms of sun, space, and warmth, as well as how far down to put the seed in the soil. If you want an even easier option, start with seedlings instead.
Next, pick a spot. Most plants need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Some gardeners keep container plants outdoors in the warmer weather, while others keep theirs indoors year-round.
Water, water, water. Plants in containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground. Count on watering your plants every day, beginning on Day One.
Keep an eye on your plant as it grows. If it looks tall and spindly or there are bites taken out of it by pests, look up University of Maine Cooperative Extension or MOFGA gardening tips online to troubleshoot any problems that may arise.
Now that you’ve got your containers planted, it’s time to sit back and watch your garden flourish and—the best part—pick your vegetables when ripe and enjoy!