February brings Valentine's Day for the romantics and American Heart Month for the pragmatic and health conscious among us. "Hearts" and "gardening" go hand-in-hand. Let's count the ways our gardens "heart" us with health and beauty, and then play a game.
Would you rather drive to the gym for a treadmill or spend time in your garden? Hallelujah-- those huffing, sweating vigorous fitness-club workouts are not the only way to help maintain heart health. WebMD here says that "health benefits can be acheived with bouts of exercise lasting at least ten minutes." Gardeners know that it's quite easy to work up a sweat by digging or trimming tree branches. For some, a relaxed hour of weeding or gentle raking is just right for getting the circulation going. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute includes gardening tasks in a list of moderate activities which help maintain cardiovascular health. Click this link to read a "Guide to Physical Activity" from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and to explore related topics.
In researching the health benefits of gardening, I found a lovely site by the British charitable organization Thrive. Thrive describes itself as a charity which "uses gardening to change the lives of disabled people." To further that goal, they've created a linked site called Carry On Gardening. That site illustrates creative ways to garden despite disabilities and physical limitations, including the recovery from a heart attack or heart surgery. Carry On Gardening suggests activities for different fitness levels and at different times of year. In addition, the product guide shows quite a few aids and accessories for gardening. The right tool makes almost any task doable and keeps people in the garden despite lack of mobility.
Hearts a'burstin and and bleeding hearts- Horrors?
Thankfully they're generally NOT the tragic result of overzealous gardening. Those are just two of many heart-themed plant names. This table lists others. Each highlighted Latin name links to cultural information and gardener comments in Dave's Garden PlantFiles.
Even more numerous than heart-named plants are those that simply have heart shaped leaves. Can you think of one, invited or invaded, in your garden? I came up with several in my green inventory, looked up a few more, and made a game for you at the end of the article.
Pick-Your-Own Healthy Heart
I'm sure you've seen lists of top heart healthy food items. WebMD has a list of twenty five. Chances are great that you've grown a few in your garden! Wherever you garden, and depending on your climate, you may be able to cultivate at least half of these:
Walnuts are hardy in zones 4 to 8. True almonds bear fruit in limited parts of zones 8 to ten. That's why sunny southern California is the only United States producer of almonds. 'Hall's Hardy' almond is a hybrid which may take the chill of zone 6. Growing nut trees requires an investment in time and space, and harvesting them can be pretty labor intensive. You'll want to read more before comitting to either of these. Try Walnuts.org for answers to all your questions about that "awesome food and plant" (Walnuts.org's words.) True '"sweet" almonds are close cousins to the peach and are cared for the same way, which is detailed by Texas A & M, here.
These berries grow on small to large bushes depending on the variety best suited to your zone. Blueberries need a moist location and acid soil; they naturally do well in the eastern half of North America. Blueberries are easy to harvest and not prone to many bug problems. Just be sure you beat the birds to your crop.
This perennial needs, and deserves, a permanent place in the home garden. Load on the compost and aged manure for asparagus to thrive, and beware of beetle grubs.
Red bell peppers and tomatoes
Peppers and tomatoes both love warm summer weather and are easy to find as starter plants from nurseries in spring. Red peppers are merely the fully ripened, "carotenoid" loaded fruit of many green bell peppers. Bell peppers can ripen to purple, brown, or yellow or orange too, so choose your variety accordingly.
Like all citrus, oranges are frost sensitive. Dave's Garden's most southern and southwestern members can plant orange trees in the yard. Read some basic cultural information in Citrus - A Short primer on How To Grow Them by MitchF. The rest of us can only mimic their good luck with dwarf trees. "Growing Fruit Crops in Containers" will help you decide whether a potted orange tree is right for your situation.
Delicous, nutritious sweet potatoes are another heat loving crop. The quickest of them need 80 days to produce and develop. Little sprouts called slips are planted, grow into ground hugging vines, and make tubers to dig at the end of summer. Getting To The Root Of Things. The Sweet Potato: Its History, Uses, and Culture tells you all I can imagine you might ever want to know about sweet potatoes.
I (heart) games
Anagrams - Heart Shaped Leaves
1. eilotv _________________
2. abdoossw _________________
3. abennrru _________________
4. tsaoh _______________
5. beddru _______________
6. aaaclpt _______________
7. eflmnooorw ________________
8. igmnnor ygrol _______________ ____________
9. cagilr admrstu ______________ _______________
10. aakrstu eert _______________ _________
11. accelmny ________________
12. ddehilnnoopr _________________
Bonus points: How many are in your yard, garden or indoor landscape? How many of these names are also the Latin genus of the named plant? What is the technical term for a heart shaped leaf? Super bonus: What is the botanical term for heart shaped leaf when the stem attaches at the point?
Has this reading been a love-ly diversion on a dreary winter day? It was fun and edifying to write. Soon enough we'll have spring and can take a stroll, or work off the winter sluggishness, in our gardens. Let's raise a glass of tea or red wine, (both also on the list of heart- helper foods,) and toast this love affair between gardens and gardeners. Enjoy!
Articles and links
Sauls, Julian W. and Larry K Jackson, Growing Fruit Crops in Containers, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida Fruit Crops Fact Sheet FC-57
WebMD Top 25 foods complete list appears here. Page three of that article concisely explains the benefits of each nutrient cited in the food list.
Other links are included in the article as highlighted text. Other articles on individual plants and crops may be available elsewhere in Dave's Garden.
1. violet 2. basswood 3. brunnera 4. hosta 5. redbud 6. catalpa 7. moonflower 8. morning glory 9. garlic mustard 10. katsura tree 11. cyclamen 12. philodendron ; How many? I have, or have had, seven. Latin names 3, 4, 6 ; Terms: cordate, obcordate (yes, I had to look that up!)
About Sally G. Miller
I grew up playing in the Maryland woods, and would still do it often if life allowed! Graduate of University of Maryland, my degree is in Agriculture. Gardens and natural areas give me endless opportunity for learning and wonder. Naturally (pun intended) my garden style leans towards the casual, and my cultural methods towards organic. I like to try new plants, and have "some of everything" in my indoor and outdoor gardens. Thanks go to my parents for passing along their love of gardening and nature, and my husband and kids for being patient when I get lost in the garden.