Plant a Garden for Fitness and Wellness!


For those of you new to gardening (guess what?)…it’s a great workout! I grew up gardening, so I really don’t think about the workout. To me, it is just a great way to relax and grow your own food! There’s nothing like digging in the dirt and being able to put the veges on your own table (or maybe for someone you love)!

The old rule of thumb (in Vermont anyway), is not to plant until Memorial Day (except for the little plants that might be ok in the slightly cooler early spring weather, like spinach and peas).

But to backtrack just a bit…March is the fun month when you can purchase your seeds. So many choices! This is the time to plan what you want to grow. I like to add something new every summer just to see how it grows. Once you know your location and soil you will be better at choosing your array of veges/fruits that you plant.

You may want to plant your own seeds from scratch. These should be planted in early March so they have time to grow strong enough to move outside. You will need to “harden” the plants. As the weather gets warmer, you can place them on your porch or deck for a few hours at a time. Or if you have more time, you can build mini greenhouses! As you get closer to the end of May, you will be able to move the plants outside. Just watch for those pesky pop-up frosts that we sometimes get in Vermont!

May is the time to select a nice sunny spot and get to work on your location. The ground should be warm enough to move and dig into. You can be very meticulous and remove all the grass by hand. (I was lucky enough to have an established spot in my yard!) Or you can find someone who can rototill the soil for you (maybe your friendly neighbor!), or you can work the soil over yourself. Now THAT’S a workout! Make sure to take your time if you do this yourself, and stretch your back and hamstrings.

If you don’t have a lot of space, then you may want to consider raised beds. You can build them yourself, or you can purchase a frame at the local store. Then you just need to add the soil.

Whichever way you decide, you can then have your soil tested (UVM Extension Service offers this service for a nominal fee) to make sure you have the proper nutrients in the soil for your vegetables. You can also pick up test kits at some of the lawn and garden stores. All of these tests will tell you what to add to your soil to make it ideal for whatever you are growing (fruits, veges or flowers). Once you’ve worked all these nutrients into the soil, plant!

Now the fun part! How do you want to organize your garden? It’s really up to you!  You can pick up some great gardening books or better yet, check websites to get ideas. Just keep in mind that every year you should rotate the location of your vegetables in your garden. Each plant uses different nutrients so they deplete the soil in that area. Moving the plants (and adding nutrients every season) helps to replenish these.

Next comes the maintenance (weeding and bug control). You will now need to keep a daily or every other daily eye on the plants to see if they need some help with a bit of fertilizer or bug removal. Or, maybe some of the bigger plants may need some stakes or cages to hold them up. Just a quick stroll through your garden every evening is a good way to take inventory and a nice way to end your day. And, you may be able to bring in a bit of produce! This brings me to the best part; EATING the rewards! Enjoy this part. You should be able to have veges for your meals and maybe even enough to freeze or can for the winter.

All that hard work for tasty returns! And you didn’t realize that you improved your strength and flexibility in the process! Wasn’t it worth it? Go ahead and find a spot to plant…it’s not too late yet!

Wendy Hildebrand, Corporate Fitness Director