April 22 marks the 46th annual Earth Day — an event intended to focus the world on environmental stewardship. In communities across the globe, events large and small will take place to drive awareness of environmental issues. The spirit of Earth Day is one of an individual connection with the world around you. That being said, what can you do this Earth Day that will promote a better world while also striving for better health and mobility?
The first thing that came to my mind when pondering that question was gardening. Of the activity, English poet Alfred Austin said, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” While you might be skeptical to garden if your mobility is limited, fear not — there are many ways for you to enjoy getting your hands dirty in the fresh, spring air without breaking your back.
According to the DIY Network, one such way is to focus on gardening within raised beds. These are garden beds typically enclosed by retaining walls made of stone or timber that are elevated several feet above the ground, thus requiring less bending and stooping than you might do otherwise. Even better — if the walls are low enough for you to sit on, you can use them for support while you play in the dirt.
Of course, these types of garden beds are permanent structures, and if you don’t already have them, you will either have to hire someone to build them for you or enlist the help of friends and family in their construction. Furthermore, if you rent your home, such things might not even be an option. A less permanent and more cost-effective alternative is an elevated planter. These rugged structures can be found at many garden centers and are specifically designed to make it easy for those with limited mobility — even those who are wheelchair-bound — to be able to garden without having to bend and stoop. Even better is the fact that they take up relatively little space in your backyard and can even be installed on a deck, patio or balcony. Some assembly will be required, so you might have to call a friend or relative, and a few trips to the garden center will be required to get the soil you’ll need. But after that, you’ll be on your way.
If you don’t like that option, or if your home makes such an approach a challenge — perhaps you just don’t have the space — then you could consider vertical gardening. According to Popular Mechanics, vertical gardens are ideal if horizontal space is at a premium. They also have the benefit of beautifying an otherwise ugly or unattractive wall or other vertical surface.
Mother Earth News said that trellis supports can be made from a variety of materials, including different kinds of wood, PVC and bamboo, and will last for several years. You might need some friends and family to help you put them together and get them securely anchored in the soil against a wall, but after that, you have the option to grow many different kinds of vegetables. These include cucumbers, summer squash, peas and green beans.
Finally, if your space is even more limited, consider container gardening. Many relatively small pots can hold a variety of vegetables and herbs, and even if you can’t find the room outside, you can likely find a windowsill that can hold small containers. A variety of gardening centers sell starter kits for container gardening and can make recommendations about container size and placement so that your garden gets the right amount of sun.
Whatever route you choose, gardening is a great way to honor Earth Day while giving you an ongoing hobby that will let you stretch your legs, grow healthy food and — as Alfred Austin said — nourish your soul.
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