The summer season brings many opportunities to get outside and be active. It also isn’t too late to start a garden! There is nothing quite as calming and peaceful as gardening. If you have ever gardened before, you know the feeling of just being present with what needs to be tended to that day. There is just something miraculous about getting our hands in the dirt and actively participating with life; from seed to fruit. Slowing down, being present, quieting the mind and caring for your garden can be one of the more therapeutic and rewarding experiences life has to offer.

I discovered a great article from NPR (https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/02/17/147050691/can-gardening-help-troubled-minds-heal), which dives further into the full range of uses and places of therapeutic gardening. However, they also explain, “What scientists do know is that gardening reduces stress and calms the nerves. It decreases cortisol, a hormone that plays a role in stress response.”

You don’t have to have a “green thumb” to get started. Nor do you need a “healthy” bank account. I first got into gardening our yard, where nothing would grow, due to poor sunlight. I trimmed some bushes, built a couple of garden beds (https://bonnieplants.com/library/super-easy-4-x-8-raised-bed/) and I learned as I went. Much of it did not turn out the way I wanted, however, that just motivated me to learn more for next season. Gardening can be as simple as picking up a starter tomato plant to building a few garden beds. It might even be just grabbing a shovel, start turning over the dirt and throw some seeds down. Sometimes you just have to “dig in.” Ha!

If you live in an apartment or cannot have a garden per se, there are other options. You can grow starter plants (basil, tomato, herbs etc), you can volunteer at a community garden (http://www.thegroupinc.com/blog/2017/04/community-gardens-csa-fort-collins/) or look for FT/PT work at a garden center.

If you have never gardened or interested in getting started again, here are a few simple tips from Better Homes and Gardens (https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/ten-steps-to-beginning-a-garden/):

1. Get an idea. Is this going to be a vegetable garden? An herb garden? A flower garden? Just one bit of advice: Start small. ‘Tis better to succeed just a little, than to fail grandly.

2. Pick a place. Almost all vegetables and most flowers need about six hours of full sun each day.

3. Clear the ground. Get rid of the sod covering the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results, you can dig it out, but it’s easier to smother it with newspaper.

4. Improve the soil. Invariably, soil needs a boost. The solution is simple: organic matter. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings, or old manure.

5. Dig or don’t. Digging loosens the soil so roots can penetrate more easily. But digging when the soil is too wet or too dry can ruin its structure.

6. Pick your plants. Here are a few easy-to-grow plants for beginners:

● Annual: cosmos, marigolds, impatiens, geraniums, Calendula, sunflowers, and zinnias

● Perennials: Russian sage, lamb’s-ears, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, phlox, pansies, and daylilies

● Vegetables: lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers

7. Put them in the ground. Some plants, such as pansies and kale, tolerate cold, so you can plant them in autumn or late winter. Tomatoes and most annual flowers, on the other hand, are touchy about cold, so don’t plant them until the danger of frost has passed in your area.

8. Water. Seedlings should never dry out, so water daily while they are small. Taper off as the plants get larger. New transplants also need frequent watering—every other day or so—until their roots become established.

9. Mulch. To help keep weeds out and water in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch.

10. Keep it up. Your garden is on its way. Keep watering when needed, and pull weeds before they get big.

*For more advanced gardeners, here are some tips which are specific to the month of June:

https://www.denverpost.com/2017/06/02/garden-first-week-of-june/

Happy Gardening!!

-Andrew Heinz

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