I hope all of you are practicing ways to stay safe during this pandemic. I have talked to many of our seniors and most agree that they are not enjoying staying at home and understand that it is to keep them from getting sick.
Our senior center will remain closed during the month of May. At the end of May, we will see if it is safe for us to once again come together. In the meantime, we will continue to have food distributions every two weeks and to deliver to our Meals-on-Wheels seniors.
In the last few articles, I have written about things you can do at home while you are quarantined. It is very important to stay busy and take care of yourself.
One of the things I have enjoyed is working in my garden. I have finally planted all my vegetables and herbs and now I am beginning to work on my flowers. I have been looking at different methods of gardening and thought that I would share some of the things I have learned. Hopefully you will find how rewarding gardening can be. You don’t even have to have a green thumb.
As a longtime gardener, I just love the smell of soil in the warm sun. Add the scent of herbs, flowers and the taste of a fresh tomato and I’m in my happy place. It’s something I don’t ever want to give up.
If you know a senior who’s loved to garden for decades, then I’m sure they will be delighted to learn that they don’t need to give it up as they age. They might not want to weed large beds or handle heavy pots, but they can still get their hands in the dirt and grown fresh herbs, vegetables, flowers and other plants.
There is no reason for someone who is getting older to give up gardening. The following ideas will hopefully make gardening enjoyable for everyone no matter what your age.
The placement of a garden is important. If you are able to garden outside away from your house, then a raised bed is definitely a good idea. Having a garden that is up off the ground can provide those with hip, back, knee or balance problems a way to still dig in the dirt.
I have two very large raised beds at my house. This has definitely made gardening for myself extremely satisfying. These beds can be very low maintenance.
First, you must install your raised bed. There are kits available in most stores that have a garden center. They are actually easy to put together with boards and a few hinges. There are many plans online for raised beds, especially on Pinterest. The Mennonite community in Englewood often will have raised beds for sale that are sometimes waist high. I’m sure they would take special orders for them.
Before you install your bed, make sure that it is located in an area where your plants will get plenty of sun and are on flat ground. For those in a wheelchair, the surface around the bed will need to be hard and smooth. Make sure there are plenty of turning around places. An easy-to-reach outside faucet for water is needed so that watering will be easier.
After you have your bed installed, use a good soil that will drain easily. Add a time-released fertilizer and mulch to reduce weed growth. Now you are ready to plant.
The least physical way to grow flowers and vegetables is to grow from seed. You will still need to thin the seedlings out after they germinate and keep them watered. That’s about it. If you prefer to use plants, soak the container in water and gently push the plant out, keeping as much soil around the roots as possible. Place in a hole and cover the roots with soil.
Try to choose plants that are low maintenance. For instance, plant bush beans that will not need something to climb on. If planting a fruit tree, choose one with low-growing fruit. Planting perennials is a good idea since they will not have to be planted year after year.
Weeding is something all of us dread. But if you will keep your weeds out of your garden, they will not reseed, making your gardening much more enjoyable.
If you need to stay a little closer to your house, you can still garden just outside your door. Container gardening allows more seniors access to flowers and vegetables in one pot and also gives them the height that helps make gardening easier for them. The following will give you some ideas of what to put in your pots.
When planning a container garden, remember to use thrillers, fillers, and spillers. In the back of the pot, add plants that will give height to your container. Add plants around the center to fill in the spaces. Finally, add plants that will spill over the sides of the container. This method will give your containers a beautiful effect.
If you want to plant annuals in your containers, pack them in. They will become root-bound and grow up over the pots. You’ll get drama and a beautiful arrangement.
Herbs can thrive in a container. Don’t be afraid to mix different herbs in the same pot. Some herbs that love growing in a container include mint, basil, parsley, chives, thyme and oregano. The more you pinch and pick the herbs, the more they will grow. Adding fresh herbs to your food is a delicious way to add much flavor.
A one-pot vegetable garden is always a hit. You can put three bamboo poles in the center of a large pot and make a teepee. Plant beans at the base of each pole. Fill the other space with root vegetables such as carrots or beets.
Make a pizza garden in a container. Plant a Roma tomato in the center of the pot. Around it, plant a green pepper plant, onions and some herbs such as basil and oregano. Get some pizza dough and you are ready for a delicious homemade pizza.
Another idea for a container is a salsa garden. Plant tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and cilantro to make wonderful homemade salsa.
And finally, if going outside is not an option, then bring the garden inside. Window gardens are perfect for anyone. Edible window gardens consist of herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, lavender, parsley, mint, thyme, oregano and chives. Use a potting mix rather than outside soil. Place your window garden in a sunny location. You can also plant tomatoes and strawberries indoors.
Flowers planted in a window garden is also an option. Containers for window gardens can be purchased almost anywhere. You can even use canning jars or any type of glass container for cuttings of plants. Be sure the plant has at least a four-inch stem and put it in the jar filled with water. Dump the water every week and replace with fresh water. These cuttings should last for weeks. Line them up across your windowsill and watch them grow. Cactus window gardens need almost no maintenance. Plant the cactus in soil mixed with gravel and sand.
Gardening gives added motivation to get outdoors in the fresh air and can be enjoyed by seniors with varying ability levels. Some older adults prefer to choose the plants, get their hands in the dirt and enjoy the planting process. There are others who are content to just water their gardens and watch it grow. Either way, gardening can bring hours of enjoyment, quiet moments and much to talk about.
Sue Walker is the executive director of the Etowah Area Senior Citizens Center. She may be reached by calling 423-781-7632.