Getting Yourself & Your Garden in Shape for Spring
Spring equinox is here around my part of the world and we’re starting the spring off with cool rainy weather after a warm up last week! Now, I have to admit that doing my spring garden prep work was never a source of serious intestinal “knottage” in my earlier years. In fact it was a seasonal milestone that I really looked forward to…a sort of “back to school” feeling that everything was nothing but possibilities. It’s that “starting with a clean slate” enthusiasm that inspires all of us gardeners at the start of a new growing season. But times…oh how they have changed! As a professional edible landscaper, it’s not just ‘garden-play’ anymore. Now my professional rep depends on just how well I prep my own garden for the height of our growing year (Manhattan Beach is a small town and my neighbors know what I do for a living!) and, yes, my business depends on how well I organize…well… my gardening “stuff”. It’s no good when your garden managers can’t find the bone meal or the dead-heading scissors or struggle to find those drip emitters when they’re in a rush to get busy in your clients’ gardens! Yep… now the month of March always comes in like a lion for me and it keeps on roaring all the way through October!
How do I get my garden, my garden shed and myself ready for spring? Here are a few of my tips and a few I’ve “harvested” from the web.
Me, myself and I
• Getting yourself ready for bikini season and gardening season all at once
First and foremost, you can’t be a good gardener (let alone a professional one) if hurting, aching, huffing and puffing or running off to get your son or burly assistant to do the inevitable heavy lifting is part of your gardening reality. Folks, this stuff is hard work! It’s great exercise but you need to prepare your body just like any other form of exercise or sport you do.
In January I started walking. Not far, just a mile or so the first few weeks until I gradually worked up to 4 miles at least 3-4 times per week. Walk somewhere that is a calm and peaceful setting for you. This should be as much a mental stress reducer as it is a physical one. Go to a local park, community garden, beach, any place that you’d like to be even if you weren’t there to exercise. You’ll find that you’ll look forward to
your walk each day because it’s a special destination for both your mind and body. If you’re a fan on facebook, you’ll remember my occasional posts about my morning walks.
Even if you didn’t start your exercise routine in January, it’s really never too late. Start today!
• The value of a good garden warm-up routine
Like in any sport, the best coaches/trainers will tell you – WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Gardening is no different. Your body needs a good 10 minutes of a slow stretch and muscle warm up routine to help it avoid muscle strain and injury. Here is an easy-to-follow guide to some simple stretches you can do right there in the garden!
Click HERE to view picture on website
You know where you’re feeling muscle tightening so start by doing slow stretches targeting those muscles. For me, my problem zone are the muscles in my ‘back 40’ gluteus
maximus region (no chuckling people!), which get shortened by over-use or long stints at the computer (yep, I’m not always in the garden!). Here is my favorite stretch:
1. Sit on a garden bench or chair and cross one leg over the other, with the ankle on top of the other knee.
2. Sit up straight, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
3. Lean slightly forward into the stretch. Ahhhhh! I can hear you all sighing from here!
• You are what you eat
Growing your own food already makes you more aware of the nutritional value of the food your garden gives you. Good start! If you think your diet could use some improvement (and whose doesn’t), start reading! There are lots of great books and articles out there to help. Of course consult your medical professional as well. Whatever you decide to do to improve the eating habits and health of yourself and your family, the most important goal to strive for is
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
That means No Processed Food…Portion Correctly…and Fill Your Plate with Mostly Veggies! The table on the left and the plate graphic below will help you visualize how this should look. C’mon, with a little adjustment, this won’t be hard!
Of course, some of us will choose to eat nothing but plants and, with some knowledge about including enough protein, this can be a life-changing choice, but it’s not for everyone. For my family, a good fit is to try to follow a Mediterranean diet as much as possible – more emphasis on things that grow and less on things that go! ☺
Here are some good articles and books on the Mediterranean diet:
New England Journal of Medicine
The Mediterranean Diet: Ten Books to Get You Reading
(a listing of the most popular reviewed books on Amazon)
- The average serving size of meat on U.S. plates is 6-8oz. If you choose to start cutting back your family’s consumption of animal protein, don’t do it drastically overnight. Try cutting down the serving
- by 1oz over a period of a few weeks until you get to the recommended portion size of about 3oz. (about the size of a deck of playing cards). Who’s going to notice missing 1oz off their plate a week? Here are a view more visual cues to get you prepared to portion correctly.
The look of normal portion sizes
- 1 oz. meat = size of a matchbox
- 3 oz. meat = size of a deck of cards or bar of soap (the recommended portion for a meal)
- 8 oz. meat = size of a thin paperback book
1 medium potato = size of a computer mouse
Getting Your Garden (and Garden Shed) in Shape
• Organizing your seeds
• Getting your soil ready
- As many of my blog readers and facebook fans know, I’m a dirt nerd. EVERYTHING depends on this one thing. So let’s start from the ground up, shall we?
• A Review: The value of using your tools correctly to avoid injury
How to use a shovel correctly
How to select and use tools correctly
How to sharpen your tools safely
So I hope this helps you get on your path to being garden (and bikini) fit and ready! And, for our friends in colder climates, hey – consider yourself lucky – you’ve got a couple more months to prepare!
Happy Spring Everyone!