Using Gardening to Get in Shape

While gardening is usually thought of as a productive way to grow beautiful plants and obtain tasty fruits and vegetables, few gardeners have ever considered the immense amounts of exercise one can get in the process of gardening. While you can get almost as much muscle (if not more) exercise as you do working out, it is very productive at the same time.

You may wonder how gardening could possibly give as much exercise as working out. Just think about all the various facets of preparing a garden. There are holes to be dug, bags and pots to be carried, and weeds to be pulled. Doing all of these things help to work out almost every group of muscles in your body.

My brother is a fanatic about working out. Almost every time I call his house, I end up interrupting some muscle toning activity. I’ve never really enjoyed working out, though, as it seems that the constant lifting of heavy things just puts a strain on my body with no immediate positive results. But while he is into working out, I am almost equally enthusiastic about gardening. I work outside improving my garden almost every day. I think I definitely surprised my brother when he realized that I am almost as muscular as he is; but I have never lifted a single dumbbell!

Before you go out into your garden, you should always stretch out. Even if your goal isn’t to work out and get exercise, it’s still a good idea. Often gardeners spend long periods of time hunched over or bent over. This can be bad for your back. So not only should you stretch out before hand, but you should always take frequent breaks if you’re spending long amounts of time in these positions.

Weeding and pruning are some of the best workouts a gardener can get. With the constant crouching and standing, the legs get a great workout. If your weeds are particularly resistant, your arms will become particularly toned just from the effort required to remove them from the ground. If you plan on taking the whole workout think very seriously, you should always be switching arms and positions to spread out the work between different areas of your body.

One of the most obvious ways to get exercise is in the transporting and lifting of bags and pots. Between the nursery and your house, you will have to move the bags multiple times (to the checkout, to your car, to your garden, and then spreading them out accordingly). As long as you remember to lift with your legs and not your back, transporting bags and pots can give you a fairly big workout, even though you probably don’t make those purchases very often.

Mowing your grass can also be a great exercise. If you’ve got an older mower that isn’t self propelled, just the act of pushing it through the grass will give you more of a workout than going to the gym for a few hours. During the course of mowing the grass, you use your chest, arms, back, and shoulder to keep the mower ahead of you. Your thighs and butt also get worked a lot to propel the mower. Not only do you get an all around muscle work out, but it can improve your heart’s health. It’s good for you as a cardiovascular activity, as well as a great way to lose weight due to the increased heart rate and heavy breathing.

If you plan on using gardening as a way to get in shape or lose some weight, you can hardly go wrong. Just be sure to stretch out, drink plenty of water, and apply sunscreen. As long as you take steps to prevent the few negative effects such as pulled muscles, dehydration and sunburn, I think you’ll have a great time and end up being a healthier person because of it.

The Psychology Behind Gardening

I don’t know what it is about a garden that has always drawn humans to
them. But they’ve always been very popular, and an integral part of
peoples’ lifestyles. Most religions feature gardens as the settings for
some of the biggest events According to Christianity, humanity was started
in a garden and the son of God was resurrected in a garden. The Buddhist
build gardens to allow nature to permeate their surroundings. Almost every
major palace and government building has a garden. But what’s so great
about them? They’re just a bunch of plants, after all.

Of course, the reasoning is fairly obvious behind why people grow food in
gardens. It’s to eat! If you live off the fat of the land and actually
survive on stuff from your garden, it’s easy to understand the reasoning.
But I’m thinking about those people who plant flower gardens just for the
sake of looking nice. There’s no immediate benefit that I can see; you
just have a bunch of flowers in your yard! However, after thinking
extensively about the motivation behind planting decorative gardens, I’ve
conceived several possible theories.

I think one of the reasons people love gardens so much is that while we
have a natural desire to progress and industrialize, deep within all of us
is a primal love for nature. While this desire might not be as strong as
the desire for modernism, it is still strong enough to compel us to create
gardens, small outlets of nature, in the midst of all our hustle and
bustle. Since being in nature is like regressing to an earlier stage of
humanity, we too can regress to a time of comfort and utter happiness.
This is why gardens are so relaxing and calming to be in. This is why
gardens are a good place to meditate and do tai chi exercises. A garden is
a way to quickly escape from the busy world.

I’ve thought at times that perhaps we as humans feel a sort of guilt
driving us to restore nature and care for it. This guilt could stem from
the knowledge that we, not personally but as a race, have destroyed so
much of nature to get where we are today. It’s the least we can do to
build a small garden in remembrance of all the trees we kill every day.
It’s my theory that this is the underlying reason for most people to take
up gardening as a hobby.

Gardening is definitely a healthy habit though, don’t get me wrong. Any
hobby that provides physical exercise, helps the environment, and improves
your diet can’t be a negative thing. So no matter what the underlying
psychological cause for gardening is, I think that everyone should
continue to do so. In the USA especially, which is dealing with obesity
and pollution as its two major problems, I think gardening can only serve
to improve the state of the world.

Of course I’m no psychologist; I’m just a curious gardener. I often stay
up for hours wondering what makes me garden. What is it that makes me go
outside for a few hours every day with my gardening tools, and facilitate
the small-time growth of plants that would grow naturally on their own? I
may never know, but in this case ignorance truly is bliss.

Preparing Healthy Soil

If you’re getting ready to go on a new garden venture, you need to prepare
your soil to ideally house your plants. The best thing you can do in the
soil preparation process is to reach the perfect mixture of sand, silt,
and clay. Preferably there would be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and
20 percent clay. There are several tests used by experienced gardeners to
tell whether the soil has a good composition. First you can compress it in
your hand. If it doesn’t hold its shape and crumbles without any outside
force, your sand ratio is probably a little high. If you poke the
compressed ball with your finger and it doesn’t fall apart easily, your
soil contains too much clay.

If you’re still not sure about the content of your soil, you can separate
each ingredient by using this simple method. Put a cup or two of dirt into
a jar of water. Shake the water up until the soil is suspended, then let
it set until you see it separate into 3 separate layers. The top layer is
clay, the next is silt, and on the bottom is sand. You should be able to
judge the presence of each component within your dirt, and act accordingly.

After you’ve analyzed the content of your soil, if you decide that it is
low on a certain ingredient then you should definitely do something to fix
it. If dealing with too much silt or sand, it’s best to add some peat moss
or compost. If you’ve got too much clay, add a mixture of peat moss and
sand. The peat moss, when moistens, helps for the new ingredient to
infiltrate the mixture better. If you can’t seem to manage to attain a
proper mixture, just head down to your local gardening store. You should
be able to find some kind of product to aid you.

The water content of the soil is another important thing to consider when
preparing for your garden. If your garden is at the bottom of an incline,
it is most likely going to absorb too much water and drown out the plants.
If this is the case, you should probably elevate your garden a few inches
(4 or 5) over the rest of the ground. This will allow for more drainage
and less saturation.

Adding nutrients to your soil is also a vital part of the process, as most
urban soils have little to no nutrients already in them naturally. One to
two weeks prior to planting, you should add a good amount of fertilizer to
your garden. Mix it in really well and let it sit for a while. Once you
have done this, your soil will be completely ready for whatever seeds you
may plant in it.

Once your seeds are planted, you still want to pay attention to the soil.
The first few weeks, the seeds are desperately using up all the nutrients
around them to sprout into a real plant. If they run out of food, how are
they supposed to grow? About a week after planting, you should add the
same amount of fertilizer that you added before. After this you should
continue to use fertilizer, but not as often. If you add a tiny bit every
couple of weeks, that should be plenty to keep your garden thriving.

Basically, the entire process of soil care can be compressed into just
several steps… ensure the makeup of the soil is satisfactory, make sure
you have proper drainage in your garden, add fertilizer before and after
planting, then add fertilizer regularly after that. Follow these simple
steps, and you’ll have a plethora of healthy plants in no time. And if you
need any more details on an individual step, just go to your local nursery
and enquire there. Most of the employees will be more than happy to give
you advice.