An hour puttering in the garden--tucking in a plant here, cutting back a shrub there--is often all it takes to sculpt a beautiful yard and a healthier you. How? What you may think of as puttering can actually tone your muscles at the same time it makes your yard an ideal spot for relaxing.
Mark Cain, a certified organic farmer near Huntsville, Arkansas, has been market gardening for more than 20 years and thinks the secret to longevity in the garden is all about attitude. "If it's not fun, slow down or take a break," says Mark. "I have figured out a way to relax and enjoy almost everything I do, and that's allowed me to keep going for all these years."
With the right approach and techniques, preparing soil and other garden endeavors can help you as much as they help the plant. "Every gardening activity requires that you relax into it," says Mark. "Break away from the thought that completing an activity is the goal. Instead, just enjoy what you're doing, and you'll be surprised at how much you'll get done."
Twice Means Nice
Double-digging a garden bed is a good example of how this approach can work. The basic technique, which consists of digging a series of adjoining trenches and redistributing the dirt from them, requires a fair amount of bending and digging, but a relaxed attitude can make this process enjoyable instead of overwhelming.
Don't try to double-dig the entire garden; start with one small strip, then do another strip later. Spending 30 minutes a week double-digging will help tone your muscles and create ideal soil for your plants. Eventually your entire garden will be a glorious testament to your labor and also will be the best growing spot on your property.
By gardening slowly, you'll have a strong back, a good attitude, and the ability to tackle a new gardening endeavor without dreading it. "Longevity is not about how much time you spend working," says Mark, "as much as it is about working efficiently."
"Everyday Fitness: Work Out With Yard Work" is from the June 2005 issue of Southern Living.