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Toi Degree: Gardening has many benefits

Gardening at any age is a great thing and has long been known for its relaxing qualities and as a place to find tranquility and healing.

Gardening, in particular, is associated with mental clarity and feelings of reward; it has many other physical benefits, as well.  Gardening for children offers the same health benefits and more.

There are few things that children enjoy more than digging in the dirt and making mud pies. They are fascinated by looking for worms and bugs and love to water the garden and anything else in the vicinity.

Children also enjoy planting seeds, watching them grow and harvesting what they have grown. By cultivating their curiosity about these things, you can help them develop a love of nature and gardening. They will also enjoy the special time that they get to spend with you.

Encourage their enthusiasm by planting seeds that mature quickly and are large enough for a child to easily handle. Consider these popular choices of vegetables: zucchini, pumpkins, carrots, lettuce, peas, broccoli and potatoes. Children may even want to eat vegetables that they have grown themselves.

If you have enough room in the garden, gourds are good choices. After harvesting, they can be decorated and used as birdhouses or autumn table decorations.

It is also important to include the child in the decision making when you are deciding where to put the garden. This can be a good time to talk about what is required for a successful garden. Teach the young gardener that growing a healthy garden begins with good soil.

Explain that plants, just like people, need to eat and drink. Make sure that the chosen spot gets enough sun and has a readily available source of water. The garden should be located where it is easily accessible to the child and can be admired by others.

Children should also have their own tools to use in the garden. Child-sized rakes, hoes, spades and gloves can be found in most garden shops, home improvement centers and catalogues. Less expensive alternatives might include old, heavy kitchen spoons for digging and measuring cups for scoops.

Gardening gives children a sense of responsibility and accomplishment and enables them to learn about the environment and relationship between plants and people. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), moderate-intensity level activity for 2.5 hours each week can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.

The CDC considers gardening to be a moderate-intensity level activity; it can help you to achieve that 2.5 hour goal each week. Those who garden are also more likely to exercise 40-50 minutes longer on average than those that choose activities like walking or biking. So with spring approaching, it’s a great time to start gardening.

Toi N. Degree is a Family & Consumer Education agent for Rowan County Cooperative Extension.  You may reach me at 704-216-8970 or email me at: toi_degree@ncsu.edu

 

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