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Gardening: It does a body—and mind—good

Lifelong gardeners reap benefits of digging in the dirt

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April 23rd, 2014
Peggy McManus
Peggy McManus

Peggy McManus has been digging in the dirt for several weeks now. Peggy tries to start her garden on St. Patrick’s Day, “if it’s not covered with snow,” she says. She plants her peas early to yield a bountiful crop. 

Last year, she says, “I had beautiful peas. They will go until a good hard frost.” She’s anxious to see how they turn out this season.

Flowering flora

Peggy moved from a house where she had a large garden, to , an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., and she still enjoys getting dirt under her fingernails. At Wind Crest, she grows prize tomato plants, carrots, peppers, squash, pole beans, herbs, and flowers. 

“We’re real proud of our gardens,” she says of her neighboring Wind Crest green thumbs. 

Like Peggy, Theresa and Norman Frantz grow vegetables and flowers in their garden. As a team, they tend to tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, marigolds, and columbine, among other plants. 

“We like fresh vegetables,” Theresa says, “and marigolds keep the pests away.”

More than sowing seeds

This time of year, the community gardens are abuzz—not only with the sounds of pollinating insects, but with the chitter chatter and sifting sounds of gardeners preparing their beds for the season. 

For many, there’s much more to gardening than watching their plants grow.

“We have a lot of camaraderie with the other gardeners,” says Peggy. “We love to share our success and failures.” Many share the fruits of their labor with each other and with fellow neighbors, too, making it a community affair. 

What’s more, they share their space with lively fauna. “Yesterday, I saw this beautiful Monarch butterfly on my morning glory,” Peggy says. “And we have hummingbirds this year! Gardening is such fun.”

Those who enjoy the entire experience are on to something. Studies show that gardening can ease stress, keep you limber, and improve your mood. In fact, a recent study in the Netherlands shows that gardening has better stress-fighting qualities than other relaxing leisure activities. 

Though gardening doesn’t compare to running a mile, taking a Zumba class, or lifting weights, it does get your blood flowing and your muscles stretching. It requires strength and stretching and is an excellent form of low-impact exercise.

And if that isn’t enough, some research suggests that gardening—as a combination of physical and mental activity—can improve brain health and lower a person’s risk of developing dementia. 

If scientific studies aren’t enough proof, get out and experience the sights, smells, and sounds of gardening. Or check out the gardens at Wind Crest.

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