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Victory gardening with the young

According to the American Horticultural Society and horticultural therapists, gardening can help with diseases such as migraines, depression, autism, Alzheimer’s, and provides physical, nutritional and mental health. Gardening provides the joy of fresh air and boosts vitamin D thanks to the sunshine. It helps make people happy. Does that describe an essential for our times, or what?

Earth is made of bacteria that have a high level of serotonin, called the “happiness hormone.” The serotonin in the earth around your plants make us happier and relaxed. Gardening is good for the body and heart, since it is a physical activity. Raking, watering, cutting, moving and dragging aid flexibility and balance. One hour of gardening is equal to 30 minutes of activity. All of this is great for families.

Victory Garden 3.0

A Victory Garden can be a plot of earth or a few large containers of potting soil in the sunshine. You can purchase plants, seeds or seed potatoes and follow the directions on the package. Easy plants to grow are small patio and other tomatoes, beans, peas, mixed lettuce and other leaf crops, peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, herbs and colorful plants such as nasturtium, small sunflowers, marigolds, petunias and hundreds more.

Here are basic suggestions for containers that can produce remarkable crops. Avoid containers that had anything poisonous. Clean out and rinse containers well and make drainage holes on the bottom. Some people put crushed water bottles on the bottom for drainage. It is not needed if you have good potting soil, never garden soil.

If you have started seeds indoors five to six week ago to get a head start on the gardening season, check Almanac.com for frost maps in your area. You want 65 degrees minimum and 70 to 85 degrees optimum soil temperature — not air temperature — and more than 6 hours of sunlight to plant outside.

If you have planted indoors and kept soil like a damp sponge but not wet, you should have seedlings after two or three weeks. Thin out weaklings and keep the sturdiest. Place in a bright location that is not more than in high 60s for sturdier seedlings. High temperatures will make the plants leggy. After a few more weeks, you should have full-leafed plants.

Vegetables

Vegetables require larger pots than annual flowers. You can even plant seed potatoes if you follow container and bag directions. Tomatoes, for example, grow well in 5-gallon buckets. Peppers will grow well in containers about 8 inches in diameter and 10 inches tall. They need warm roots. You may place dark plastic around the top of the roots for a while. Later, they need calcium. Keep soil to a moist, crumbly ball.

For more healthy family activities, see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com; wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons, and Facebook.

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