Gardening for health

I really, really love to garden.

Lately, I have been spending my nights curled up with seed catalogs, lusting over mouth-watering descriptions and anxiously awaiting Mother’s Day – not only because my mom is an amazing gardener who inspires many of my garden projects, but because the second Sunday in May is generally recognized as the “safe” time to start planting tender seeds and transplants in Denver, Colorado.

Last weekend I built a salad table for my backyard.  I have a plot in the Edgewater Community Garden.  And I am super excited to be working on a community herb garden with Eastside Growers Collective (where I also  have an individual plot dedicated exclusively to melons and winter squash – a Cucurbitaceae collection for my botany brethren).  I even started a worm farm – which is a whole other post entirely ..

I may be going overboard 😉

So, to justify my obsession, and  for newbies that may be considering digging in for the first time, or for old-timers that need a few more reasons to justify hours spent playing in the dirt – I complied a few of the many health benefits that can be found in the garden.

Fresh food

Growing your own food ensures that you will have access to the tastiest produce imaginable.  Children will often happily eat veggies straight from the garden that they would never consider eating from the store.  The nutrient content in organic food is higher then conventional and you can’t get more local then the backyard.  Eating your 5-7 servings a day is easy and delicious when you are a gardener.

Sunshine

There has been increased awareness of widespread Vitamin D deficiency over the past few years.  I have been surprised to find out that even in sunny Colorado, many of my patients are deficient.  So before you slather on the sunscreen, consider letting your limbs get some sunshine.  Be sure to keep  your face covered and don’t get burned.  The amount of time you need depends on your skin type, time of day and personal health history.  This is a good topic to discuss with your health care provider.

Exercise

Gardening burns between 200-600 calories per hour.  As anyone who has ever maneuvered a wheelbarrow knows, gardening also improves strength, flexibility and balance.   Gardening a few times a week can decease your chance of developing heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes!

Remember to go organic – you wouldn’t want to negate any of your gardening health benefits by breathing in and ingesting toxic pesticides.

Happy digging!

Dr. Caitlin

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