Did you know that gardening is not only great exercise, but that playing in the dirt can keep you healthy both physically and mentally?
It’s true. Dirt has so many different things growing in it, it actually helps build your immune system by exposing you to these microbes. In fact, the BBC recently did an article all about how it can help.
Here’s just a few reasons why gardening is great for your health:
Good exercise when digging or planting
Exposes you to sunshine for vitamin D (wear sunscreen!)
Dirt microbes can help strengthen your immune system
Peaceful space for a mental health break
Growing your own food is not only an accomplishment but can also be more nutritious
Growing flowers can help the pollinators, which help food production
Great bonding experience with children or friends (unless you prefer alone time)
My first memory of gardens goes way, way back. My great-grandma had a beautiful flower garden in her backyard. I remember running through, stopping to smell the flowers, and then heading over to my friend’s house for some red hot candies.
My second memory of gardens is also a long-ago memory. My grandma in Wyoming had an amazing garden in her front yard – and raspberry bushes in her backyard. I loved playing near the flowers and pretending I was in a secret garden. Even now, every time I see daisies, I think of her beautiful yard.
Now, fast forward a few decades. I first got the inkling to play in the dirt in 2009. This was the first time I bought a pot, some dirt and a “plant baby” from Lowes. We had moved to Myrtle Beach the year before – we’d gotten Piggy – and now, it was time to start. Little did I know gardening would become a big passion of mine.
That first year, I don’t think I did much more than plant some basil and cilantro in pots. And, as you can see in the picture, I made a few mistakes by leaving flowers outside…when we were expecting SNOW! Yes, snow…at the beach.
But, in the spring of 2010, I got a few more pots and things started to take off. That first year, I planted cucumbers, basil, squash, lettuce, cilantro, strawberries and a few other things that I can’t tell what they are from that picture.
As you can see, I learned that cucumbers need supports to grow – so I made a makeshift trellis.
The next year, in 2011, we moved to our new house. The following spring, I started working in the ground to build our garden. That’s when I learned that pine tree roots are very hard to dig through. Some of the vegetables survived, but many did not.
It took another season of unsuccessful in-ground gardening for me to take the next step and get raised beds. This is when things clicked. If you have poor soil – full of roots – like I do, raised beds are a blessing…if you prepare them properly.
That first year, I got a little TOO excited to get plant and could have done a better job putting down a weed blocker and enhancing the soil. But, you live and you learn.
In 2019, I got a few more raised beds and after reading a book on companion planting flowers with vegetables, everything really took off.
I started growing zinnias, cosmos, sweet peas, black-eyed susans and marigolds. I couldn’t believe how many pollinators came to the garden to help the vegetables grow. That season, I really learned a lot about attracting the right kind of bugs to the garden.
This year, 2020, has been a major learning year. If you’ve been following along on Facebook or Instagram, I had to move four of the raised beds because they were infested with roots and grubs. In their new location, I properly prepared the soil and now the plants are healthy and successful. I also had major issues with a mulch that stunted the plants’ growth.
I also learned to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, “you eat, so your plants have to eat, too!” I never really used fertilizer because I am cheap, excuse me…frugal, but now I am using organic fertilizer to give the plants what they need and now they’re are growing so much better.
Below are some photos from my 2020 garden.
I’d love to hear about your garden journey, so send me a note! I might just feature you right here on the blog.
…And, if you get the movie reference for the title of this piece, leave me a note in the comments below.
As I have written before, I do like most bugs. I love butterflies, bees, assassin bugs, spiders, dragonflies and other pollinators.
However, I hate bad bugs who eat my plants and ruin things.
This year has been really bad for some bugs. Thanks 2020…
Specifically, as I have said before, the squash vine borer was HORRIBLE. I lost all my squash, zucchini and pumpkins to them. I also really hate grubs. Grubs are kind of my fault because they thrive in soil that isn’t the healthiest. They eat the roots of plants and then the plants slowly die.
If you’ve watched my journey of moving four beds that were troublemakers from one side of the “farm” to the other, you’ll know just how many grubs I had. Yuck yuck.
Some other evil bugs are squash bugs, aphids, leaf-footed bugs, cabbage worms, caterpillars, stink bugs, tomato hornworms, cucumber beetles and pickle worms. Each one has been an issue this year in some way.
Today, I also found ants farming aphids. Yes, you read that right. Apparently the aphids secrete a sweet liquid (ew!) and the ants love it. So, they literally take care of the aphids as the aphids eat the plant. #nothankyou.
For the ants, I put DE on the plants when I know the bees aren’t out. For the squash bugs, grubs, cabbage worms, caterpillars and stink bugs, I just try to be diligent in finding them and squishing them. For the vine borer, I tried everything. This coming year I have some new traps to try and will also try to plant earlier before their season.
What kind of bugs are you dealing with this year? And how are you fixing the problem? Let me know in the comments below.