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Gardening in Assisted Living
Indoor & Outdoor Gardening is a Rewarding Activity for Seniors

No matter what your age or where you live, you can stay involved in gardening. Even if you don't have a small patch of earth to tend because you live in an apartment, condominium, or assisted living, you can still garden. Find a community garden or start a container garden on a deck, patio, or balcony.

There are so many reasons why gardening is good for you. Physical activity is a great way to get in shape and stay fit. It builds strength and endurance and helps to ward of osteoporosis. Gardening can help relieve stress and lower blood pressure too. In addition to all of that, gardening produces other healthy rewards: peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash just to name a few. Veggies from the garden taste great and are great for you.

Many assisted living facilities provide group activities that may include gardening. This is ideal for a number of reasons, not to mention the social interaction involved, the organization and availability of a gardening area and general sense of community involvement.

Let's take a look at some specific types of gardening and tips for seniors.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor and Outdoor Gardening
Indoor and Outdoor Gardening

Love to garden? Think that the move to an Assisted Living Facility will end your days of eating fresh vegetables? Think again! People all over the world enjoy indoor gardening, also known as container or window gardening. Large space or small - you can grow fresh vegetables, herbs, and other greens year round.

Window Gardening is Possible in Many Assisted Living Communities

If you live in a retirement community and rent an apartment, you can use a window space to grow a garden in a container. In the event that you do have a roommate, invite her to join in the window gardening fun. Remind her of the taste of fresh vegetables and the health benefits of a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Container Gardening does take a Commitment

Before jumping into container gardening - think of the time and effort you are willing or able to spend. Factor in if you will be able to place your containers outside for any length of time during the warm months. Plants that need to flower before fruiting need pollination. If insects aren't around, use a small, soft brush to spread pollen from flower to flower.

Cherry tomatoes do well indoors with the brush pollination method. Other tomatoes may not fruit or provide small fruits. Green onions, leaf lettuce, some greens, and many herbs do well in containers. If possible, check with your gardening store employee for advice. If ordering your seeds from a website, write the provider with questions about the different varieties.

Choose containers that are easy to move but still provide enough room for roots to thrive. A plant that is root-bound (roots growing tightly together) will be spindly and stunted. One gallon containers will fit on many window ledges and are not extremely heavy.

Do not use gardening soil for container gardening. It's designed for the ground. If used in a container, there's a potential for root-rot from the soil holding too much water. Containers need good drainage. You can mix your own potting soil or get the pre-mixed variety. Check the soil in the container once a day for dryness. Some vegetables and greens need more watering than others. Keep in mind that container soil will dry out quicker than an outdoor garden.

To grow organic plants - use only compost or farm manure for your fertilizer. Get compost or ask friends that live 'green' for a bit of theirs. Chemical fertilizers burn container plants and affect its taste. Avoiding chemicals is one reason to grow your own organic food.

Organic Gardening

Gardening a hobby for older adults

Organic food is expensive, not just in the Assisted Living sector. With more people turning to chemical free food, the cost is well worth it. Chemical fertilizers have been tentatively linked to health problems from asthma to cancer.

Many facilities resist buying expensive foods, as the cost passes to residents and makes the monthly rent out of reach for potential residents. But with simple gardening techniques, the quality of life for residents is vastly improved.

Home Grown

Organic gardening cuts down on the food garbage system. Composting of all kitchen waste, except for meats, creates a rich gardening soil. The soil mixes with purchased potting soil or worked into garden plots. Compost eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers and reduces kitchen waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Resident Involvement

Residents can work the community garden, if health permits. The act of growing their own organic food contributes to better physical and mental health. Happier residents are healthier residents! Gardening gives residents the chance to contribute to their small community.

Extra Funds

Another side benefit to growing an organic garden and allowing residents the opportunity to participate-taking surplus vegetables to a local farmer's market. The extra money can go into a fund for the residents to use as they please. Perhaps a new television for a common area, movies, parties, and more. The possibilities are endless.

If enough vegetables are available to take to market, the facility itself can profit. This extra profit is used in much the same way as the resident's fund or by enlarging the garden plot to grow even more. Not only can profit be considered, excess vegetables and fruit is donated to local charities. Food pantries all across the USA are in dire need of donations. Organic food would be welcomed with open arms.

Don't forget to stock the kitchen and watch residents enjoy the fresh taste of their hand grown bounty.

Tips for Older Gardeners

  • Keep your garden manageable. You might have great expectations for your garden, but remember to keep it simple. This will keep you from overexerting yourself. The goal is to reap the benefits of gardening without making yourself vulnerable to accident or injury.
  • Avoid king-sized crops. Remember that seeds grow into fruits and vegetables you will have to harvest later. Don't grow anything that is so heavy or bulky you will have trouble picking it at the end of the season.
  • Try container gardening. Planting in pots can make gardening possible for those who are unable to move easily. Also, because the pots are off the ground, container gardening is easier on the back.
  • Use the right tools. Garden smart. Using tools like a step-on bulb planter to plant crops like tulips and potatoes will help those who find it difficult to bed or kneel. Use a cart to help you carry tools and equipment.
  • Grow up, not out. Use trellises, poles and fencing when possible. This will help you maintain a smaller garden and limit the amount of work close to the ground.
  • Accept help. Let others help you with difficult or strenuous tasks. Gardening is a community effort.
  • Take breaks. Make sure you rest frequently. Putting benches in strategic places will offer a nice respite from your labor.
  • Take in the sights and smells of your garden.
Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.