Get Fit Working In the Yard

This season offers plenty of opportunities to work outdoors--stimulating body, soul, and garden to grow healthy and strong.
Lynne Long

Crisp days are upon us. Enjoy the exhilarating cool air and clear days by working outside. Gardening during the winter months prepares your yard for spring and can give your body a form of exercise that will help you stay fit for a lifetime.

The Goodness of Gardening
Many fitness enthusiasts consider gardening to be moderate exercise, and 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can lower cholesterol; drop blood pressure levels; and help prevent type 2 diabetes, strokes, and heart disease. Gardening also contributes to muscle endurance, flexibility, and strength.

Equally rewarding, the gardening life often lowers stress, alleviates depression, and can improve your self-esteem. Gardeners of all ages enjoy the chance for self-expression and creativity, as well as accomplishing a task. The garden's sensory extravaganza also reduces tension: The colors, sounds, and fragrances can make you forget the cares of a dreary day.

 
  • Prune. Now is a good time to prune evergreens, summer-flowering shrubs, and trees. The bare branches of dormant deciduous trees make it easier to evaluate the situation.
  • Prepare the soil. This is a great time to turn your soil as harmful insects and their eggs will be exposed to the cold and to hungry birds. Mix in compost, manure, or other organic materials for a lush planting bed in the spring.
  • Plant. Trees and shrubs set out in January have extra time to establish healthy root systems before spring.
  • Mulch. Add a thick layer of mulch to protect new growth. Pine straw, fallen leaves, and composted pine bark are good choices. Mulch provides protection for roots and helps conserve moisture.
  • Clean containers. Soak your collection of leftover clay pots overnight in a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup household bleach per gallon of warm water. If your pots are still crusty, try scrubbing with a steel wool pad after they have soaked for 12 hours. Rinse with warm water, and allow the pots to air-dry.
  • Ready tools. Shovels, shears, and mowers should be sharpened and oiled. Paint tool handles bright colors, such as yellow or red. This will help preserve the wood and will make these items easier to spot when you set them down on the lawn.
  • Relocate accessories. Bring garden ornaments, such as jars or urns, into your basement to prevent damage from falling temperatures. If they cannot be moved, cover or turn them upside down to prevent water collection. If the water freezes, the containers could break.
  • Prevent disease. Many fruit trees and roses will benefit from an application of dormant oil spray, which kills overwintering insects and diseases. It can also reduce the scorching effects of drying winter winds.
  • Think ahead. After working in the yard, take time to plan and dream. Draw a small map of your garden, and make a list of plants and seeds you'd like to order from your favorite garden catalogs.

Tool Time

For physically friendly tools, call the Life with Ease at 1-800-966-5119, or visit their Web site at www.lifewithease.com. Another good source is Lee Valley Tools. Call 1-800-267-8735, or visit www.leevalley.com.