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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Sun, Jun 18th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, June 19, 2000

After more rain last week most local gardeners are experiencing soil crusting making it harder than ever to pull stubborn weeds. All the more reason to cultivate and then mulch, mulch, mulch. A lot of work now, but it will save you hours of work later. What can be used as mulch, you may ask? Many gardeners prefer seed-free straw or old hay, leaves, grass clippings, compost, shredded bark or wood chips. But you can be creative and use what you have around. Newspaper, old carpeting, plastic or tarp materials can be effective as long as you allow space around the plants for rain to reach the roots. The new "lasagna" method of weed free gardening involves making complicated layers of newspaper, mulches and whatever organic materials available, (including pulled weeds) This mulch can be tilled in next year to add organic matter to your soil. Adding organic material to your garden is always a good thing.

Gardening: An Exercise that Bears Fruit in More Ways than One (excerpted from Tufts University Health & Nutrition
Letter June 2000)

Did you know that weeding takes as much energy as shooting baskets or walking almost 4 miles an hour? So does planting seedlings or shrubs. Digging or mowing, even while walking a power mower, requires more energy still, as much as playing softball or doubles tennis. For a 150 pound person, weeding and planting burn roughly 160 calories every 30 minutes; digging and mowing, about 190 calories. The more you weigh, the more calories burned; the less you weigh, the fewer calories burned. Granted, not all gardeners perform a specific activity for 30 minutes at a stretch. For gardening to count as exercise, youve got to work up a bit of a sweat, or at least a glow.

That said, however, its not necessary to accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity (the daily minimum recommended for adults) all at once. Accumulating 30 minutes over the course of the day offers many of the benefits of doing continuous activity for 30 minutes or more. Youre still getting a light workout if you weed for 15 minutes and then dont mow for another 15 minutes until many hours later.

Note that gardening activities not only have the potential to strengthen your heart and lungs (as well as make you more flexible). They can also serve as resistance exercises that strengthen muscles throughout the body. Dan Hickey, writing for the Burlington, Vermont-based National Gardening Association (, says that gardening is like having a "fabulous gym" right outside your door. "Turning compost is essentially lifting weights," he points out. "Raking is like using a rowing machine."

Americans in general are catching on to the idea of gardening as good form of physical activity. And older Americans are the biggest gardeners of all. But with age come special considerations to make gardening both safe and easy.

Because balancing ability declines with age, its important for older gardeners to make sure all their garden movements are easy. Make use of raised beds to avoid bending. Dont bend from the back, bend from the knees. Alternate often between movements such as raking, mowing, weeding, etc. Frequent switching around will help you avoid repetitive motion injuries. But above all, have fun and enjoy creating something beautiful and so healthy for you, inside and out. See you next week.

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