Benefits of Gardening are Beyond Just A Delicious Harvest

Salad Greens
For everyone wondering whether it was worth it to go through the hard work of gardening, this bowl of greens should be a good answer. Those who do garden know that home grown produce just tastes better in ways that can never really be understood if you have never done it. Home grown produce is fresher – literally you can walk out the door, pick it and go in and enjoy its wonderful flavor immediately. This is why I go through all the trouble of gardening. Because at the end of the day (or the middle for that matter), nothing is better than walking outside and picking your meal fresh off the plant.  In addition, fresh picked produce has more nutritional content. However, recently, scientific research has confirmed that the health benefits of gardening are enormous physically as well as psychologically.

According to a meta-analysis of 22 case studies on gardening (published in March 2017), those who participate in gardening can potentially be healthier than those who do not garden. In the US, approximately 117 million people, one in three, participate in gardening and it seems like to more are interested in joining the gardening crowd every day.  In what ways can gardening help?

INCREASES LIFE SATISFACTION
Nothing feels better than a satisfying day of gardening. I mentioned the joy of eating fresh produce, but there are other joys that can be found in gardening.  It is very satisfying to propagate, make more from some, as I mentioned in the propagation post. Whether you are increasing your blooming plant stock or increasing your edible plants, taking a plant from one to many is extremely satisfying. When you see your plants growing throughout a season, budding out in spring, turning beautiful in the fall, you have a sense of peace and satisfaction. I always thought this – now science agrees with me.

Onions and Garlic

INCREASES STRENGTH AND STAMINA
When I was on limited activities, my heart doctor said I could exercise daily by walking. I asked him if gardening was OK – and he said, “Even better.”  Now, I was banned from digging at first, but there were many things that I could do. And everyday, I felt stronger and had more endurance. While gardening is not exercise, per se, it is exercise because you are physically working in the soil, lifting plants, pulling weeds, stooping, bending and standing. When you first get started – or you begin again in the spring after a long winter inside, your muscles will tell you that you have, indeed, been exercising.

REDUCES STRESS, ANGER, FATIGUE, DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
And with no drugs to boot. I mentioned earlier that you get a sense of peace from gardening. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t always go out and feel like I am in Eden. There are days that I work really hard and build up a pretty big sweat. I often come in dirty and tired, wearing a lot of dirt on my clothes and in my shoes.But, at the end of the day, I feel a healthy exhaustion, sense of accomplishment, and not in the least stressed. So, I would have to agree with science. Gardening can reduce stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety – without any toxic meds.

One recent study looked at the impact of gardening on stress. In this study, thirty gardeners were asked to perform a stressful task. They were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Levels of stress were measured throughout the 30 minutes through salivary cortisol levels and self-reported mood. Both post-gardening activities led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but the decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. After gardening, positive mood was fully restored. After reading, mood further deteriorated.  While both reading and gardening reduced stress, gardening reduced it significantly more.  In addition to gardening, you might want to grow a garden that contains plants that can reduce stress and improve your mood.

INCREASES SENSE OF COMMUNITY AND COGNITIVE FUNCTION
As mentioned in other posts, joining a local Master Gardeners has been a great way to meet very nice people with like interests. It has also given me the opportunity to learn something new everyday.  How much fertilizer do I need to add, is my soil pH high or low, do I need to add more nitrogen, home much lime do I need to add to soil for veggies, what is my square footage for gardening, what is my yield, what do I want to grow and where are just some of the calculations I have to make through the going season.  Yep, my cognitive function is stretched. In a good way.

HELPS PREVENT HEART DISEASE
Gardening would be considered moderate to high-intensity exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (gardening counts!) per week. In fact, according gardening burns more calories per hour than lifting weights.  Since it burns calories, gardening can be helpful in weight maintenance as well as controlling blood pressure.

GARDENING IS EARTHING IS GARDENING
What the heck in Earthing ? Well, Dr. Sinatra of the Heart MD Institute considers earthing to be the most impressive breakthrough in heart health. That is pretty important in my book. Earthing is, quite simply, getting your body into contact with the Earth – much as you used to run outside barefoot as a child. Remember the feelings you had coming into contact with the ground as a child? This contact with the Earth provides the body with a natural, but subtle energy.

You are a bioelectrical being living on Earth, an electrical planet. Your body functions electrically – your heart and central nervous system for example. According to Dr. Sinatra (and many others), emerging science finds that direct contact with the ground gives you an energy infusion from the Earth.  The energy infusion is powerful, restoring and stabilizing the bioelectrical circuitry governing your physiology and organs, harmonizing your basic biological rhythms, boosting self-healing mechanisms, reducing inflammation and pain, and improving your sleep and sense of calmness. As you can imagine, when these things happen, you feel tremendously better. The discovery of these benefits, and the dynamics behind them is discussed in a book Dr. Sinatra co-authored in 2014 called  Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!  Says Dr. Sinatra, “We humans live on a global treatment table…but don’t know it.”

So, what does Earthing do for you ?

  • Defuses the causes of inflammation while improving or eliminating the symptoms of many inflammation related disorders.
  • Reduces or eliminates chronic pain.
  • Improves sleep in most cases.
  • Increases energy.
  • Lowers stress and promotes calmness in the body by cooling down the nervous system and stress hormones.
  • Normalizes the body’s biological rhythms.
  • Thins blood and improves blood pressure and flow.
  • Relieves muscle tension and headaches.
  • Lessens hormonal and menstrual symptoms.
  • Dramatically speeds healing and helps prevent bedsores.
  • Reduces or eliminates jet lag.
  • Protects the body against potentially health disturbing environmental electromagnetic fields, EMF’s.
  • Accelerates recovery from intense athletic activity.

What are the basics of Earthing? Making sure your body has direct contact with Earth will equalize your body to the energy of the Earth. In fact, if any part of your body is in contact with the Earth, all of your body becomes equalized with the energy of the Earth. As far as I can tell, you simply can’t garden without touching the Earth.

Obviously I like gardening. But as you can tell, increasingly gardening is being recognized by the scientific and medical community as a critical component in your health. You can walk, or run, or lift weights or any number of other exercises, but I can’t think of any that have the vast array of health and psychological benefits that gardening does.

So, if you are an avid gardener – keep doing it. If you haven’t tried gardening, there is no better time to start than now!

Three Section 10′ x 33″ Compost Bin for Next to Nothing

Completed Compost Bins

Compost bins can be beneficial in so many ways for your health and the health of the world. I looked at all the models out there, and most were too expensive for me to justify purchasing. But, the plans all looked pretty similar. I mean, basically compost bins are boxes – right? And a highly functional one is three compartments so that you can more easily turn the composting piles regularly.

The compost bins basically look like the below diagram:

Compost Bin Diagram
Now, what does this diagram remind you of?  Yep, me too! It looks like seven pallets put together.  So, I went out to my trusty pallet stack and looked for seven pallets that were the same size and hauled them to my “compost pile home” and began assembling them as per the diagram above.

The pallets that I use often for projects come from an office machines company that sells those big copiers to businesses. These pallets are great because the nails are easy to get out and the wood is hard and durable. And heat treated – so they are safe to use.

Pallet

I wanted the sides of the compost bins to have more gaps to allow air into the composting materials.  So, I knocked two of the slats out.  This is where it comes in very handy to have pallets that have “easy to remove” nails.

Slats Removed for Air Circulation

I used those two slats from each pallet to secure the pallets using 2 1/2″ exterior star-headed screws and my fav Makita impact driver to attach the pallets.  The pallets were attached at the top and on the back of the pallets.

Attached Pallets

After the pallets were attached on the top and the backs, it was a very secure compost bin that should last for some time. I even use it to make my hoops out of electrical conduit – and it doesn’t even jiggle.  All told – it took me about two hours and cost less than $5.00 since my only cost was the screws.

Pallets Nailed at Back

I have been considering fixing something to go over the front – but haven’t really needed it so far. The compartments are big enough that the piles work with the front open.

Ain’t she a beaut? Does anyone out there have any other ideas for a quick and inexpensive compost bin?

Finished Compost Bin

 

Cedar Tub Surround for Spa Feel in Bathroom

On those days you are beyond tired and ache all over, can you think of anything any better to relieve the stress than  long soak in the tub to escape it all for a moment? I certainly can’t. If I can read a book on my relaxation journey with soft and fragrant candles burning, even better!  The atmosphere in the bathroom spa is critical to relaxing and refreshing. Right, you guys?

Well, after adding raw cedar to the ceiling and part of the walls, painting the rest of the walls with a beautiful shade of sage clay paint, and adding a cedar bench and cedar vanity, the un-spa like, ugly white ceramic tub just didn’t fit the spa atmosphere.  We certainly couldn’t afford to upgrade to a luxurious claw leg tub and although not especially pretty, the tub was certainly still serviceable.

White Ceramic Tub

 

But – ugly tub that it was, I just couldn’t have it marring the spa-like atmosphere I was working to create. At that point, I decided a cedar frame around the tub would certainly bring a more spa-like feel to the bath. I had purchased a big bundle of odd sizes of raw cedar from a local lumber company for only $75.00 and had quite a bit leftover after covering the the ceiling and part of the wall. So – I thought – why not?  I will just cover the front of the tub with the cedar. Since I like love the smell of cedar, I decided more in the bathroom just couldn’t hurt.

Raw Cedar Slabs
Isn’t it gorgeous? It seems more and more small, independent lumber yards are opening that have some incredibly beautiful pieces of lumber. If you go visit these lumber yards, you can find incredibly good deals – like this stack of cedar that I purchased. Hint: Often, you can find these lumber yards on Craigslist.

As you can see, the pieces are a widely varied in width – but that didn’t really matter. I cut them all the same length – exactly to the top of the tub ledge.  I had to experiment with the arrangement of the pieces, but all combinations seemed to work fine. Once I had decided which piece would go where, I used a caulk gun to spread glue on the tub front. After a good deal of research, I decided to use Liquid Nails Marble to glue the wood to the tub front. I figured that if it was a good bond for marble to wood, then it would be a good bond for wood to ceramic tub surface.  It worked great!!!

I put a generous amount of glue on the tub, but not so much that it would ooze out the sides. Each piece had to be held in position for about 60 seconds. This was really the hardest part.

Tub Beginning

Looking good so far. I did not know what would happen when I got to the section where the tub dipped in – guess they thought it would be decorative.  But, what I decided to do was add a bit extra since the pieces at the right end of the tub would have a gap between the tub and the cedar slabs. You can see the interesting pattern that the tub is beginning to take.

Cedar Tub in the Works
At this point, it is getting close to finishing the front of the tub. Since cedar is naturally resistant to water damage, I wasn’t too worried about it being on the front of the tub. I did worry about water splashing between the tub and the cedar, so I decided to put a piece of cedar on the top and use caulk to seal it on the inside. This ledge made a good place to sit or rest my feet getting out of the tub.  It was also good protection for water splashing.

Photo of finished tub.

Once the tub front was completely covered, I rubbed on a thick coat of tung oil every 24 hours for three days. Tung oil needs to cure for about seven days to get really hard. The front was no problem as I didn’t touch it for those days. I had to be careful and wipe up the water on the top ledge and make sure that none splashed down between the ledge and the tub.  After 10 days, I added caulk to the front of the ledge to ensure that water stayed out.  Then, I took such a long, relaxing hot bath and soaked for hours in my spa bathroom.  It has been almost a year, and the cedar looks just as fresh as it did when I first installed it.

This may not be a project that everyone would want to do to their tub because the cedar is rustic and wood colored. I know that painted wood – and white are more the trend these days. I wouldn’t want to paint the beautiful cedar. But, this same idea could be done using bead board for a more tailored, currently trendy look.

I hope you have been encouraged to find ways to reuse and recycle when you are remodeling. While new can be nice, reusing conserves resources – of the environment and of your pocketbook. Making something like this also feels good and makes your spaces very personal.  What ideas have you come up with or what are you thinking of doing in your remodels that make the space very personally you?

Recycling Natural Materials & Getting Dirt From the Woods

If you are using raised beds for gardening, then you know that getting the dirt to fill them can be expensive. I know that once you have them filled, you can use the dirt each year just adding compost to the soil. However, always looking for a way to save money, I wondered if the soil on the floor of our woods could be scooped up and used for filling the raised beds. I noticed when I was working to get rid of some of the invasive vines (greenbriar) overtaking the woods and trees that the soil was rich and extremely full of earthworm castings. It seemed it would be an ideal soil to be added to our raised beds and the cost would be free – except for the labor of collecting it.

My friendly and very helpful extension agent said absolutely, the soil could be used for our raised beds. I began researching on the Internet and had no idea that the subject could be so incredibly controversial. There are basically two sides, those who say it is OK to collect soil from the forest floor and it won’t hurt the forest or woods, and those who think that anyone who does that is destroying the natural Earth.  It seems that both sides are adamant and spent hours and hours arguing their case. Neither side seemed to want to change their viewpoint. But, I don’t  want to get into the issues or take sides.

I do believe that finding ways to save money while using natural products is good for your health and good for the world. Let me explain why we used soil taken from our “forest” and did not feel guilty about it. This is our situation – we have 12 acres of land that had apparently been cleared sometime in the past – probably for the pine. It has grown out and is full of hardwoods and pines, lots of red cedar and an incredible amount of invasive Japanese privet and greenbriar.  If you do not know what greenbriar is, then you do not know evil plants, yet.  Roundleaf greenbriar is a very invasive, very thorny vine that in the past, was called “the devil’s wrapping yarn” because of its thorns and tendrils. Twisted in among the horrendous roots of the greenbriar are the roots of the highly invasive Japanese privet. They must have some sort of communication going on to protect each other because they are entangled so much that digging them up is a backbreaking chore.

The vines and privet are overtaking the natural wooded area and strangling the trees and natural shrubbery. While getting rid of the invasive plants, we gave the trees some breathing room and we scooped up the soil and hauled it to the raised beds.  Seems like a win-win to me.

Why am I bringing this up – not everyone has a woods for their back yard. But everyone an find ways to use the resources that are available.

For example – don’t burn your leaves in the fall, and don’t bag them up in those horrid black bags or paper bags to be hauled to the landfill. If you must get them out of your yard, put them in a bin for compost.  Composting will help you dispose of a large quantity of leaves and grass clippings efficiently and cost-effectively. The Iowa State University Extension provides detailed information about composting oak leaves for the home gardener.

 

In a nutshell (no pun intended), oak leaves are slightly acidic but using them as mulch shouldn’t really affect the soil pH. And shredded oak leaves are great for mulching your veggies, perennials. and even around trees and shrubs. Oak leaves are beneficial for increasing the organic matter content of the soil.  The mulching lawnmowers available to day are great at shredding the leaves to make them more usable.  Shredding the leaves will accelerate decomposition.

Speaking from experience, using a thick mulch of oak leaves on top of dense clay soil will encourage earthworms to gather and party down, leaving an incredible bounty behind. We raked all our oak leaves into a thick layer and topped the area with spoiled hay, planning to turn it all into the clay soil. Things came up – as they sometimes tend to do – and we left the layer of leaves and hay sitting there through the summer and winter. We were amazed this spring when we found a thick layer of beautiful compost. When tilled into the clay, it made the clay less dense and more beneficial to growing plants. No longer is that area of the yard impenetrable to shovel or root.

 

DIY Raised Bed using Recycled Corrugated Roofing Material

Harvest in Raised Bed

Raised beds are quite the gardening rage these days and they are beneficial for a variety of reasons. If high enough, they can save your back from constant bending over. This can be beneficial for the elderly or those who have back issues.  The type of soil you have can dictate the necessity of raised beds. As you know, my red clay soil requires raised beds for growing fruits, veggies – and, well, anything. One thing about raised beds is that they can be expensive to build and expensive to fill.  So, always looking to save money, I am always on the hunt for cost effective (cheap) raised bed ideas. I have tried several different ways to build raised beds, and one of my favorites is the one I built using (slightly rusted) corrugated roofing that for some obscure reason was left laying around in multiple locations on our property when we bought it.

I was frustrated with it sitting all over the place and was getting ready to ask my husband to haul it off.  I had really been delaying asking because I kept thinking I could surely do something with it  – old signs, bird house roofs, ????  That’s when I ran across an interesting raised bed idea from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Spark!!!  I could do the same thing – but use the rusted corrugated roofing sitting all over the property for a very inexpensive raised bed. So, that is what I did.

If you have read other posts, you know that the area I use for planting has a pronounced slope. The first semi-raised bed that I built was not sloped and I just didn’t like all the water running to the end of the bed. Since that first bed, I have built them level – which means there is a wide variance between the front of the bed and the back.  There are several ways to do raised beds on a slope including digging down on the high end or raising the end of the bed on the low end. I chose not to dig and adjusted the depth of the boards at the corners to achieve a level bed.

The first thing that I had to do was figure out where the top board would be on the front and on the back of the raised bed. For the first step, I hammered a stake at each corner of the bed and (since it was to be a 16′ bed) and in the middle as well. Using a line level, I marked the position that would be level at each corner and in the middle.  Then, I  measured each stake. To give you an idea of our sloping land, the front side of the bed is 15.5″ and the back side is 23.25 inches.

Using 4×4 treated pine, I cut the corner and middle boards.  Using 1x4x8 treated pine, I screwed the boards at the top and the bottom of each 4×4 “leg” using two 3 1/2″ star head exterior screws on each leg. I used two 8′ sections instead of a 16′ board for two reasons. First, I was planning on making two 8′ beds – but once I  got started, I decided making one 16′ bed would save resources, ie. less wood and less wasted space between the beds. And, I really don’t have a good way to get 16′ lumber home.

Corrugated Bed Frame

You can see from the slant of the top board how much our property slopes. I used a  standard and line level multiple times as I was building the frames.  It was very frustrating, actually, but I finally got the top boards level and screwed into the legs.

Next, I used 2×4 treated lumber every two feet to support the 1×4 frames. I screwed them into the 1x4s with 2 1/2″ star head exterior screws.  I also decided to put a cross brace at 8′ because it seemed a bit wobbly. You can see one side complete below.

Side of Raised Bed

In case you are wondering, I set the side boards on top of the soil. As mentioned before, I have hard red clay soil and I don’t think the bed will sink.  My husband was a little concerned when he first saw it, but decided that we would just put some braces under the supports if it does sink. So far, it has remained true despite multiple rain events.

After completing the supports for each side, I dragged the corrugated roofing material over to the raised bed. The sheets were in varying lengths and widths.  I had to decide whether to make the ridges run vertically or horizontally.  After much deliberation, I decided to have the ridges run vertically because it seemed more cost effective and easier cutting the pieces to fit. At first, I cut the pieces to match the slope of the land, but after several pieces, I realized cutting them straight worked just as effectively and was a ton easier.

I used my circular saw to cut the roofing material using a Diablo 48-tooth Steel Demon Ferrous Metal Cutting Saw Blade.  My husband didn’t think it would work, but it cut through the roofing like butter. However, make sure you wear safety glasses and preferably a long sleeve shirt because the sparks fly!!!!!

I tried to line up the corrugated sheet to the top of the board, so I ended up having to dig down a bit in some places to align the corrugated sheet to the top of the top rail.  I secured the corrugated sheet metal to the 1×4 frames with #9 x 1″ fine steel hex-head roofing screws and my fav impact driver.  The hex head made it easy to “grip” the screw as it went through the roofing. Even though they said the hex screws are self-drilling, I found it easier to pre-drill a hole first since the corrugated roofing was super thick – must have been industrial grade.

Once all the roofing was in, I decided it would be nice to be able to sit down and work in the bed, so I used 5/4 deck boards along the top.

Raised Bed with Corrugated Steel
And there she is, ready to be filled with soil. Lots of soil. She isn’t shiny and new, but using materials that I had on hand, I was able to inexpensively build a 4’x16′ raised bed for 64 square feet of gardening. And, I think it has a lot of personality – a statement that I like to re-use and re-style to save money and save resources. And, as you can see at the top of the post, the raised bed was finished and filled in time to get a nice spring harvest.

What do you  have laying around that can be used in a different way? What can you re-use to save yourself money and the world resources.  Shiny and new is not always better and I urge you to look for creative ways to renovate the past.  Let me hear from you!!!!