Gardening has many benefits

A common springtime hobby, gardening offers a way for people to relax and unwind, and has been shown to boost mood, attention span and self-esteem, according to WebMD. Although it has long been an interest of as many as a quarter of U.S. citizens, gardening has recently been shown to improve mental health, even reducing the likelihood of dementia in the elderly. It can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, helping people move past ideas of perfectionism and leading them to practice acceptance and connect with others, according to Psychology Today. Nurturing and growing a plant can increase self-esteem because of the sense of accomplishment accompanied with bringing something to life, and gardening can also offer a form of light exercise through tasks such as weeding.

Starting your own garden can seem like a complicated task, but when you have the right supplies, it’s actually quite simple.

If you plan on growing your plants solely from the seeds, start by planting them in a small pot or bottle, about half an inch beneath the surface of the soil. Keep them in a place with access to sunlight, and water them lightly each day.

When the roots of the plant begin to become overcrowded (they will likely clump at the bottom of the pot), transplant it into a larger pot, one about 18 inches deep, spreading out the roots as you set it in the pot. Surround the plant with soil but make sure the base and stem of the plant remain above the soil.

If you plan on keeping your plants outside, surround them with chicken wire fencing to keep small animals, such as rabbits, away from them. Water your plants lightly every other day, varying the frequency depending on rainfall and heat. For example, if the weather is hot and dry, water your plants for longer periods of time.

In Iowa, the best plants to begin growing during April include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, melons and cucumbers. These plants usually begin to produce edible crops about two months after planting, but one growing season can last until late August.

You can find plant seeds at most stores or at the Cedar Falls Public Library’s Seed Library, where you can “check out” different types of seeds to grow your own plants. Community garden plots are also available, with a 10×20 foot plot costing $25.

Using these resources and techniques, you can finally grow the best garden possible.

Picture by Joey Elser

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