Get Social–and Garden!

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“I must have flowers, always and always.”

That famous quote is from the French impressionist Claude Monet, of course, but it could be your mindset about now, too.

If the arrival of spring has put you in a gardening mood, we have info and good news for you. Gardening counts as physical activity—you can burn 200 to 400 calories an hour, and it has the potential for a two-fer—physical and social interactions.

Yes, gardening is often a solo activity. But it doesn’t have to be. Garden clubs and garden activities await.

Get Social and Garden!

“Gardening is usually done by yourself,” agrees Santhosh Thomas, DO, MBA, a staff physician in the Center for Spine at the Cleveland Clinic. But the social aspect of gardening with friends–or new friends through gardening organizations–could be a definite benefit.

Getting out of the house and socializing is a mood elevator

“Getting out of the house and socializing is a mood elevator,” Thomas says.  And the gardening, by keeping people active, can decrease pain and improve quality of life.

There are many reasons to get social in the garden. Maybe you want advice on your latest plantings or vegetables,? Want to show off this year’s crop of roses? Maybe participate in a project to preserve the environment?  How about helping combat food insecurity in your area?  Or maybe you just want to meet new friends as enthused about gardening as you are (or plan to become)?  The good news is there’s probably a group for you.

Gardening Groups Abound

First off, consider checking out Senior Planet Community’s Garden Club. Learn more here! Other groups  include:

National Garden Club: Go to the National Garden Club’s website to plug in your city or zip code and a radius you are willing to travel. You’ll likely find a long list of nearby garden clubs. The organization also hosts Plant America, its commitment to raise awareness about issues such as water conservation, environmental science and access to green space.

Capital Roots: Based in Troy, New York and serving its Capital Region, Capital Roots is dedicated to reducing the impact of poor nutrition on public health. It organizes community gardens, offers nutritional and horticultural education for all ages, and welcomes volunteers. At the moment, they need volunteers to take orders for the mobile farm stand that travels though several counties and to deliver produce to soup kitchens and other destinations.

Each Green Corner: Each Green Corner (link is here) is a northern California non-profit, that leverages underused land. The aim? To create sustainable, permaculture-inspired and culturally diverse food gardens to fight local food insecurity. One program is the Residential Garden Program, says Becky Quigley, program coordinator. EGC partners with community residents to build gardens in their yards. They can have fresh produce—and give back to the community by agreeing to donate excess produce. Each Green Corner is also looking for volunteers.

“When we come to the garden, we always knock and let them know we are there,” Quigley says. The residents then often come out and socialize.

Gardening Preparation tips

Whether you’re gardening with others, volunteering to schlep produce, or just puttering, Thomas of Cleveland Clinic has these tips:

  • Stretch a bit before.
  • Use proper tools and be sure they’re sharpened.
  • Warm up if you’re planning to do some heavy weeding or planting.
  • Avoid keeping the same posture positions for a long time.
  • Knee pads can save you from pain later.
  • Take a break occasionally!
Photo: Shaun Newton

Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist, specializing in health, behavior, fitness and lifestyle stories. Besides writing for Senior Planet, she reports for WebMD, Medscape, Endocrine Web, Practical Pain Management, Spine Universe and other sites.  She is a mom, mother-in-law and proud and happy Mimi who likes to hike, jog and shop.

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