Like never before, vegetable, herb, and seed sales are soaring, thanks to the new spirit of consumers who are not only concerned about the quality of their diet, but who also recognize the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of connecting with Mother Nature.
Modern living has literally built an abyss between us and the natural world. Fortunately, many people are starting to “connect the dots”, recognizing that a connection with the earth is important for health, fitness, and overall happiness.
1. The fitness gains from gardening
There are numerous reasons why gardening is good for anyone. One is related to the fact that human body needs repetitive mobility to function normally, and gardening is one way to stay active at times when you might otherwise be sitting motionless.
There was research published in 2012 stating that those who actively engage in community gardening projects have considerably lower body mass index (BMI) than non-gardeners, suggesting that proactive lifestyle indeed translates into improved weight management.
Statistics showed that male and female community gardeners were 62% and 46% respectively less likely to be overweight or obese when compared with their non-gardening company.
Fitness researchers have also realized that when you exercise outdoors, you do exercise harder, which is why you have more health benefits as it will encourage you to work out harder than you might indoors.
2. Gardening means moderate-to-high-intensity exercise
It was the Korean researchers who have confirmed that gardening counts as moderate-to-high-intensity exercise for children, but it can likewise be intense exercise for adults too – especially if you get into soil works, discussed below.
The Poughkeepsie Journal noted: “In the Centers for Disease Control’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, gardening is classified as a moderate-to-vigorous activity. Lifting and carrying 40-pound bags of mulch, stretching into hard-to-reach places to do weeding or pushing a lawnmower around demonstrates that gardening can be a physically demanding workout.”
The featured article also notes that a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) can burn up to 300 calories an hour by moderate-intensity gardening. On the other hand, higher-intensity activities (such as stirring compost, raking leaves, spreading soil amendments, or simply digging holes) can burn up to 400 calories an hour!
The following gardening tasks constitute moderate-intensity exercise, based on energy expenditure evaluations in children: weeding, mulching, sowing seeds, harvesting, planting, mixing, growing medium, hoeing and even watering. Digging and raking accounted for vigorous exercise, the first being the most intense of all gardening activities. Another task, that can certainly make gardening a high-intensity effort, is adding soil amendments like wood chips.
You’ll need to plunge into this about 2-4 times a year, and you may spend a week or so getting it all done, depending on the size of your soil plot. The only requisite needed for this kind of exercise is a wheelbarrow and a pitchfork or shovel. Do keep proper body mechanics in mind when gardening—just as you would during any other exercise—as the bending, twisting, and reaching could cause injury if you’re reckless.
Key considerations when gardening are the following:
- pay attention to proper spinal alignment while you work as this will help absorb shock, and allow for proper weight distribution and optimal range of motion.
- avoid over-reaching by keeping objects and work surfaces close to your body
- if possible, work at waist height with elbows bent and arms comfortably at your sides
- while planting or weeding at ground level, make sure you bend your knees and squat or kneel, rather than stooping forward with your legs straight (or use a gardening stool)
Yes, let’s get back to Eden…
The documentary film titled Back to Eden reveals how you can transcend your garden by adding a thick layer of wood chips (mulch) around your trees and plants. As previously noted, this task ranks high in terms of intensity. If you haven’t seen it yet, we strongly encourage you to watch the entire video. It has certainly transformed our “stale understanding” of gardening. The film offers excellent advice for anyone interested in sustainable agriculture, regardless of its scope.
Simple truth: Your health ultimately depends on the health of the soil!
Yes, it is exactly this circumstance that allows your food, that is the vegetables and fruits, to grow nutrient-dense. As discussed in the film, nature is self-sustaining, and when left alone, the ground will get covered with leaves and organic materials that then turn into lush compost, adding nutrients back to the soil.
This top layer of organic material also shields the soil and helps retain its humidity.
Mimicking nature, by covering your garden with wood chips, will result in less watering, and improved crops. The most cost-effective solution is to reach your local tree service, where you can get large amounts of wood chips (they are cut-off tree branches that have gone through a wood chipper) for free, instead purchasing mulch from a garden center. It is important to distribute all the chips in 1-2 days though, otherwise they tend to decompose and you will breathe in some bad dust as you move them.
Once you devote yourselves to doing this program, you won’t need any fertilizers and you’ll radically reduce the watering sessions. The chips also serve as phenomenal food for earthworms, which will digest them and create incredible topsoil of worm drops for free. You can easily get them to create a few tons of this valuable soil amendment every year if you continue to “feed” them. It is one of the absolute best soil amendments you can possibly apply, and it is just absolutely great that they are free of charge.
4. Adding soil amendments is a great workout that brings outstanding payouts in your garden
In addition to wood chips (mulch), we strongly encourage you to consider adding biochar to your garden soil, to optimize the health of your planting soil. This soil amendment can truly transform your garden, in terms of dramatically boosting yields. One of the keys to a truly successful garden is to improve the microbiology of the soil. It is this varied collection of bacteria, fungi and parasites that actually transplants the nutrients from the soil into the plant. While synthetic fertilizers like Miracle Grow will supply some nutrients, these salts actually kill the soil microbes! Due to this side effect, your garden will not turn into a self-sustaining one.
In order to thrive and multiply, these soil microbes need a home to hang out in, or else they simply die shortly after application. Biochar serves this function perfectly. We’ve applied about 8 tons of biochar on our property—and believe us, that was an intense workout!
After you have applied the biochar, you need to activate it either by combining it with compost, rock dust powder, or our favorite, human urine. The human urine is a phenomenal source of nitrogen potassium and phosphorus and will bind strongly to the carbon in the biochar.
Wetting the biochar is also important in order to promote beneficial earthworms. You can certainly add biochar to existing plants, shrubs, and trees, but ideally it’s best if it’s in the soil prior to planting, so the plants have an ideal form of nutrition earlier on.
If you garden is small in size, you might only need a few hundred pounds. Larger landscapes will require more of course.