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)
Good Sunday morning!!! I’ve been busy already today potting up tomatoes and eggplant.
But what exactly does potting up mean?
When you start seeds in a smaller seed tray, the plants can only get so big and stay happy for a short time. Just as kids grow and need bigger shoes, plants grow and need a bigger space for their roots.
That’s why gardeners have so many plastic or biodegradable pots around. As the seedlings grow out of their first home, we “pot them up” to the next size.
For tomatoes, this also helps strengthen the stem. If you’ve ever noticed, there are what look like tiny hairs all over the tomato stem/stalk. When put in the dirt, those “hairs” create roots and help make the plant stronger. That’s why when you pot up or plant out tomatoes, you bury them deep, so those hairs help the plant grow strong.
There are some plants, like squash, however that you don’t want to start in a small seed cell. You want to keep the roots in tact until you plant them in the ground. Many people don’t pre-start squash plants because their roots are so finicky but I’m trying to out run the squash vine borer this year, so I started them early and am hoping for the best.
Some plants, you don’t want to start early in cells at all. Those include carrots and, for me, nasturtium. Both like to be direct sown and left alone to flourish.
Got any questions about starting seeds and potting them up? Drop me a note or comment below.
Today in Myrtle Beach, S.C. it is 39 degrees F and raining.
A typical winter day for us on the coast. It has been a bit rainier than normal, but not by much. Even with the cold and rain, it doesn’t mean that gardening has stopped here. In our zone 8b, gardening is year-round.
Right now, I have lettuces, onions, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, 3 types of kale, cilantro, kohlrabi, pak choy, calendula, swiss chard, carrots, parsley, oregano, fennel, dill, collard greens, and garlic.
Under a cover, I have started radishes and spinach. In the seed starting area, I have tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, zinnias, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli and mustard greens. These, as they grow with heat mats and are moved in and out of the sun, will be ready for spring when the ground has warmed.
It was just last year that I bought the heat mats to start seeds earlier than March. It has helped get a jump start on the season. It also extended my season because the plants are ready to go and then new ones can be put in their place when they’re finished.
Winter garden crops also need less attention. There aren’t as many bugs, it rains so you don’t have to water as much and the plants are hardier than delicate square or tomatoes.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be checked and fertilized. Because of the extra rain, nutrients in the soil can be washed away faster – so you’ve got to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, you have to eat and your plants have to eat.
So what can you do if you don’t live on the coast like me? Well, you can have a green house. You can have a cold frame or you can plant some herbs or smaller items on a sunny window sill. You can also enjoy a break from digging in the frozen, cold dirt and dream of spring and summer.
Winter is a great time to plan and many gardeners also order their seeds during this time of year. If you’re craving winter vegetables and you’re not growing them – contact your local farmer. See what they’ve got in the fields right now. Because there are not many farmers markets in the fall and winter, buying some of their produce will likely help them out a lot.
Got questions about winter gardening? Send me a note or comment below.
Also, stay tuned this week for some exciting news!