5 Tips for Stress-Free Gardening
By MELINDA MYERS
At the end of a long day, most people just want a place to unwind, relax and escape the pressures of life. Creating an outdoor retreat in your backyard connects you to the world's best stress reducer and mood enhancer: nature.
Pulling weeds, planting flowers or just sitting in the garden can do wonders to improve your mental state. In fact, the simple act of looking at flowers can elevate your mood almost immediately, and the positive effects can stay with you for several days.
The lifting, stretching and bending necessary to garden can improve flexibility, burn calories and increase bone density. You'll use about 300 calories for each hour spent weeding the garden. If you also plant a few edibles in your outdoor retreat, you can enjoy fresh produce.
The size of your garden isn't important, but make sure to select low-maintenance plants to simplify garden care and minimize your time investment. Don't let a lack of space deter you: A balcony filled with container gardens, a small fountain and a comfortable chair can provide as much relaxation as a large garden.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Create a Plan
First, evaluate the amount of sun, type of soil, climate and available space. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and space. A well-planned garden will result in healthier, better-looking plants that require less care.
2. Decide What to Keep and What to Mask
Use plantings or screens to block noise and bad views. A few properly placed trees and shrubs or a vine-covered trellis can do the job beautifully. Add a water fountain to help reduce the sound of traffic or noisy neighbors.
3. Think Simple and Low-Maintenance
Select plants that need minimal or no deadheading, staking or pruning. Look for plants that are resistant to disease and insects whenever possible. You want to sit among the plants and enjoy their beauty -- not be overburdened by work.
4. Start Small
Consider cutting in half the number of plant varieties you initially selected and instead double the number of those that remain on your list. This will provide greater impact with less maintenance.
5. Include Plants With Benefits
Choose plants that are fragrant, attract birds and butterflies or provide year-round interest. Try some bright-orange butterflyweed for a splash of color and to attract monarch butterflies. If space is limited, look for plants that appeal to a wide range of wildlife. Coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and cosmos provide seeds for birds, while pansies provide nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds during the cooler months.
Fragrant flowers like alyssum, stock, heliotrope, autumn snakeroot, tuberose and phlox provide natural aromatherapy. If space allows, include trees like lindens and citruses or shrubs like lilacs, mock orange, gardenias and daphne.
For colder climates, position the garden so you can enjoy it from inside the house. Include plants with interesting form, colorful bark and attractive seedheads for added interest -- these will still look beautiful under a blanket of snow.
Don't forget to include a comfortable seat, bench or hammock and a table for your favorite beverage. Sit back, relax and feel the tension disappear as you enjoy your outdoor retreat.
Readers -- Do you garden? If so, what do you grow? What tips can you share? Leave a comment below and let us know?
Melinda Myers has a master's degree in horticulture and more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and has written more than 20 gardening books, including Can't Miss Small Space Gardening and Midwest Gardener's Handbook.Melinda hosts the nationally syndicated "Melinda's Garden Moment" TV and radio segments as well as the recently released The Great Courses "How to Grow Anything" DVD series. She is the 2013 recipient of the national American Horticultural Society's B.Y. Morrison Communication Award. She loves wine, chocolate and cooking ratatouille. Despite her busy schedule, she always makes time for "gardentainment."