As the winter months approach, it is important that we take the time to prepare, but this preparation goes deeper than simply getting your home ready for colder weather. You also need to make sure that you set yourself up with stimulating activities to do during the months that you will spend more time indoors.
A physically and mentally stimulating activity that we recommend is gardening. December 5th marks World Soil Day, raising awareness about soil quality. One of the most vital parts of our ecosystem, soil affects everything from water and food to climate change.
You may be thinking, “I can’t garden in the winter.” Luckily, there is a solution to this problem, making gardening possible all year round. An indoor garden! There are many benefits of gardening, but indoor gardening increases oxygen production in your home and can even lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
At Oaks Senior Living, with communities located throughout Georgia, we love to garden! During the summer months, residents spend time in our courtyards tending to tomato plants, lettuce, and other delicious vegetables. While a senior living community in Georgia may not present an abundance of snow during the winter, temperatures do drop, making traditional outdoor gardening a challenge. As a result, it is not uncommon to see plants within resident apartments.
Since gardening is such a staple throughout our communities, we have decided to share the many benefits of gardening and provide tips on how you can start your very own indoor garden, no matter where you are during the winter months.
The Benefits of Gardening
While tending to an outdoor garden presents benefits, such as natural exposure to vitamin D, the activity of gardening offers many benefits. By starting an indoor garden, you can take advantage of these benefits, including:
- Increased physical activity,
- Reduced stress and improved mood,
- And improved cognitive functioning.
Increased Physical Activity
While you may not realize it, gardening requires you to be physically active. CapTel states, “thanks to the wide variety of movements, gardening is a healthy form of both aerobic and strength-building exercise.” Because you are so focused on the gardening process itself, you may not even notice that you have broken a sweat. We all know that physical activity is a significant component of overall health and wellness. Gardening is an easy way to fulfill your recommended amount of exercise.
To be more specific, gardening improves mobility and flexibility, the use of motor skills, and increases endurance and strength. If you think about the tasks involved when you are gardening, this makes sense. Pulling weeds, digging holes, and transporting plants require the use of fine motor skills. In addition, movements involved during the gardening process, squatting, bending, and lifting, for instance, require mobility, flexibility, and strength. Gardening calls for the use of muscles that may go unused in a typical day, ensuring that you maintain the strength in these muscles.
Reduced Stress and Improved Mood
Stress affects everyone at some point and is something that we all strive to control. Gardening can help with this goal. One of the benefits of gardening is that it has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone, throughout the body, and increase the levels of serotonin, the natural antidepressant. While cortisol increases stress, serotonin is responsible for improving your mood and providing feelings of calm.
A study conducted in the Netherlands showed that gardening reduces stress levels and improves mood more efficiently than other hobbies, such as reading. AARP reports, “participants [in the study] completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of…cortisol.”
The soil may play a key role in these findings. The bacteria commonly found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, provides relief from allergies and has also been found to trigger the release of serotonin in the brain. Basically – getting your hands dirty can help to reduce stress and improve or boost your mood!
Improved Cognitive Functioning
Not only does gardening keep you physically active, but it also helps keep your mind sharp. A study of 2,805 men and women who were 60 years of age and over, showed that daily gardening provides a 36% lower risk of developing dementia. Gardening requires you to use essential functions such as problem-solving skills and sensory awareness. These functions play a crucial role in improving cognitive functioning and preventing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. According to CapTel, “spending time with your hands in [soil] involves many cognitive functions that keep your brain sharp.”
Creating Your Indoor Garden
Now that you know the benefits of gardening and why you should start, it is time for you to take advantage of this hobby all year round by creating your indoor garden.
Decide What to Plant
Before you run off to the store and buy your supplies, you need to consider what you want to grow. How much light does your house get? Ivy, pothos, ferns, and peace lilies are all good low light plants.
Next, consider what space you have to start a garden. Do you have room for a large plant, multiples, or would a window box work better?
Once you have decided what you can accommodate, determine if you would like something pretty to look at or something to eat. Nutrition is important to overall senior health, making fresh vegetables and fruits good choices for your garden. Lemons, carrots, microgreens, tomatoes, and herbs can all grow indoors.
Finally, if you have pets, be sure to pick non-poisonous plants.
Pick Out Your Container
What you plant will dictate what kind of container you should purchase. Different types of plants require different types of planters.
Planters range in price from a few dollars to well over one hundred. Luckily, since you are planting inside your home, lightweight and inexpensive options, such as plastic or wood, will be sufficient.
When in doubt, get bigger and wider than you think your need so that your plant has room to grow.
Purchase Your Supplies
While buying your planter, also pick up the rest of the supplies you will need. For your indoor garden, consider:
- Seedlings (or seeds),
- A watering can,
- And your planter.
Optional items include gloves, a hand towel, and clippers.
Time to Get Your Hands Dirty
Time for action. If you can bend down safely, consider setting up on the floor with a lot of space. If not, clear off a counter or table. No matter your location, be sure to put down newspaper or sheets to minimize the mess and make the cleanup process easier.
Once you have set up your workspace, it is time to get to planting. Start with a little dirt in the bottom of your container and then place your plants. Add soil around your plants, or cover your seeds, making sure that the start of your plant’s roots is about an inch to two inches below the lip of your pot or container. Give your new plants a little water and set them near a window.
Develop a Maintenance Plan
Your new plants should have come with a tag that explains its care needs. Refer to these instructions and create a maintenance plan that will help them thrive.
If you are concerned about remembering when to water your plants, consider marking a calendar or setting up a digital reminder on your smartphone or tablet. Additionally, make sure to remove weeds on a regular basis to ensure that your plants can soak up all the nutrients from the soil and water that they need to grow.
Gardeners will tell you that the hobby is known to be meditative and something they look forward to doing on a regular basis. While gardening is a hobby, it also provides many benefits that contribute to your overall health and wellness. Do something you enjoy and improve your well-being at the same time. Start small, but do not be surprised if your home soon starts to look like a beautiful garden.
Located in Georgia, Oaks Senior Living offers family-operated senior living communities throughout the state. We are dedicated to providing individuals with the compassionate, person-centered care they need to maintain their independence and enjoy their favorite hobbies. To learn more about the levels of care we provide or our communities, we invite you to contact a member of our team.