One of the things I love most is planting and harvesting from my vegetable garden. What I didn't know is that being out in nature is good for our mind and helps reduce stress. There is a movement called earthing that is rapidly growing. From Earthing.com, the definition of earthing is the following: Just as the sun gives us warmth and vitamin D, the Earth underfoot gives us food and water, a surface to walk, sit, stand, play, and build on, and something you never, ever thought about—an eternal, natural, and gentle energy. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?
I intuitively know earthing makes me feel good because I always feel better when I get to spend some time outdoors. Like most of you, I am usually trapped inside for work without even getting 15 minutes to go outdoors and enjoy the environment. This is why I cherish growing a vegetable garden. In just about 4 weeks, I will be planting tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, basil, parsley, eggplant and anything else that looks interesting at the garden center.
While it sounds like I have a large space to grow vegetables, it isn't that big. I use raised garden beds that I bought at Costco. But any garden center or home improvement store carry raised beds if a Costco is not near by. There are also raised garden beds that can be used to grow herbs or vegetables that don't need a lot of space, such as jalapenos. So even if you don't have a lot of room, you can still have a garden. Another reason I like a raised bed is you can overcome any issues that may be inherent in your local soil. I have friends who have a lot of clay in their yard which makes it difficult for plants to expand their roots or potatoes to grow effectively. A raised bed allows you to customize your soil and fertilizer, making it very productive for the plants.
Once you determine how many planters you will use, it is time to fill it with soil and fertilizer. One product I always tell people to use is cow manure. That's right! Cow Manure. You can buy bags of it at home improvement stores. I purchase the inexpensive soil to fill the garden beds and mix in one bag of manure per 4 foot raised bed. It is the best fertilizer you can get. The plants love it. Manure provides nitrogen and carbon which plants need to grow. Cow manure is the lowest in nitrogen which is great for home gardeners. You don't have to worry about giving the plants too much nitrogen, which would damage them.
Now let's talk about the plants. I've tried to start plants from seeds but haven't had good success. I like to keep the house temperature on the cooler side, especially when we aren't home. The seeds need a warm spot to germinate and flourish which doesn't work in my house. If you have an area that is warm and has plenty of light, you will be more successful than me. You can buy grow lights to help the seeds flourish. I simply don't have the space and time so I buy plants that are ready to be planted.
There are many organic plant options to buy online if you don't have an organic garden center near you. Companies like Seed Savers and Bonnie Plants, sell a wide variety. While you may not be able to find every plant that you want to grow in an organic option, you can get most. Bonnie Plants also has a newsletter you can subscribe to that is customized for where you live. This helps you know the right time to prep and plant your garden.
After your garden is planted, the best part is yet to come. With a little maintenance such as weeding or giving plants the right type of support such as tomatoes needing cages or stakes to keep green peppers from falling over, all you need to do is wait for the bounty to arrive. I love sharing vegetables with my neighbors. They are always so happy when I have extra to share. Plus, the flavor is so much better when vegetables are picked fresh. When you start getting overrun with vegetables and herbs, you can turn them into other forms so that you can use them all year round.
I make tomato sauce and freeze it. Oven-dried tomatoes are also a great option. Once the tomatoes are dried, I put them in a container in the refrigerator and enjoy them chopped up on salads or in a vegetarian sandwich. Herbs can also be oven dried and then put in the food processor to create your own dried herbs. This saves money on buying store bought herbs and the flavor is so much better.
The benefits of planting and caring for a garden are more than just having healthy vegetables to eat and share with your neighbors. Getting outside and caring for nature helps reduce stress and increases your ability to focus. We are bombarded with information and distractions all day long. Tending to a garden helps the mind and body relax.
A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology tested the stress-relieving effects of gardening among 30 people. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured and the participants self-reported their mood. A positive mood was fully restored after gardening suggesting that gardening promotes relief from acute stress. (Source: Mercola)
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