Gardening Is Great Therapy

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We live in stressful times. Most people have some worries in life, be it personal, about family members, their jobs or even global concerns. To allow yourself to become totally immersed in a hobby is fine therapy for both mind and body.

Today, gardening is the number one hobby in America. So, when you are outside in your garden, encouraging some plants to grow, take a moment to pause. I bet you'll find the corners of your mouth are curled up and you might even have a smile on your face. You may be working hard enough to "glow," but you are probably relaxing and enjoying what you are doing, not thinking about your problems.

Everyone should have a hobby. Gardening is a particularly good hobby to have. Even if you spend most of your time in a wheelchair, gardening can still be enjoyed. Have raised beds, gentle slopes and every tool you need within easy reach. Many years ago in England I gave a talk on gardening to a group of multiple sclerosis sufferers. They arrived at the meeting hall in wheelchairs in a fleet of ambulances. During my talk I walked among the people, showing them how they could still enjoy gardening.

With pots and potting mix in my hands, I showed how they could plant small plants, maybe making a dish garden of little succulents. The weather in that part of England is similar to that of Payson, other than it rarely gets so consistently hot.

As some plants these chair-bound folks wanted to grow are frost tender, I gave them advice on making adjustments to the usual greenhouse doors so they could get inside more easily. Some of those MS folks had never dreamed that they could still enjoy gardening. The pleasure on their faces when they realized they could was a delight to behold.

Gardening therapy is given by members of many garden clubs here in the United States to people recovering from accidents or

strokes in rehabilitation centers. The concentration they use in the effort of planting small plants in pots helps get his or her hands and fingers working again.

Any plants they have potted get taken proudly back to their rooms, then to their homes when they leave the centers. This was even more beneficial to long time gardeners who thought that part of their life was over. The arranging of cut flowers in vases is also a good task for rehabilitating damaged hands.

This writer will be happy to give anyone help on doing these classes. Just e-mail me at cactusnews@earthlink.net and put "therapy" as the subject.

Spot color at your door

We are so thankful for the rain we have had this monsoon so far, but we mustn't get carried away by the thought that there is plenty of water available to us. The higher-than-usual humidity works wonders for plant life and even human skin. It gives a break from being permanently dried out. However, we are still in a long-term drought situation. So, how about some spot color in

your garden which uses very little supplemental water? Half-barrels make good tubs in which to plant a spot color feature by your porch or pathway. The one in the photo has red, yellow, light mauve and pink petunias, with small daisies behind, and is easy to produce from seeds or trays of young annuals from the plant nursery.

Once you have your half-barrel in position -- do this before you fill it with potting mix or soil -- it is time to place a few smaller pots of plants in front of it. Just as we like shoes that accommodate our feet comfortably, so plants like the right pot for their roots.

Give some thought as to which pot suits each plant. Standard pots are as tall as the pot diameter.

Azalea pots are three-fourths the height of the diameter. Pans are only half the height of their diameters.

If you are growing some exotic plants outside for the summer, but in a greenhouse in winter, there are Long Tom pots that are about twice as high as their width to give room for tuberous roots.

An advantage of using a pot no taller than needed is that there will be less potting mix in which the roots can rot if they are left damp for too long or overwatered.

If you are growing prickly plants like cacti, make sure the width of the pot is greater that the total width of the cactus, including its spines. This protects both the plant and you from accidental damage. Because this writer grows hundreds of plants, from tiny to huge, regular nursery pots are used most of the time, except when preparing plants for exhibition. A disadvantage of the usual black nursery pots is that, while functional, they absorb heat more readily than lighter colored pots.

Overcome this to some extent by placing other plants between the black pots and the sun. White pots surprisingly are not a good idea as algae grows on the insides of these. Green or terra cotta colored pots are a good compromise if you are sticking with plastic pots.

Artistic containers

If you have only a few plants to grow in containers there are some fantastic shapes in many different materials available these days. They are not inexpensive, but remember making beautiful containers is an art form and each artist develops their own style. Each art style looks best in the right place. Thinking of this, do you like garden gnomes or other statuary? If you do, then there is another whole world of garden design out there.

Garden Tour

Get out and visit other gardens in the area. You should glean many useful, or decorative, ideas. The Rim Area Gardeners have arranged another of their popular, annual garden tours for Saturday, Aug. 26. Most of the gardens are in Payson and some are in adjacent areas. There will be gardeners at each venue to answer questions. Take your notepad and make a day of it. For more information, call John on (928) 472-6571.

-- To reach Carol Herrick

e-mail cactusnews@earthlink.net and put "gardening" in the subject line.

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