With year-round beautiful weather and an abundance of sunshine, there’s no better place than Houston for vegetable gardening in the fall and winter months. Gardening for seniors is one of the best activities to keep your mind sharp, your mood upbeat, and your diet nutritious. In this blog, we’ll talk through the benefits of gardening for seniors and the best vegetables to grow in Houston. Let’s get growing!
Prepping Your Fall Garden
In beautiful Houston, gardeners have the unique pleasure of planting a wide array of fall vegetables. Some of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables actually respond better to the fall climate, making them some of the best vegetables to grow in Houston. But before you start planting, you need to prepare your garden area for optimal fall growth.
Keep in mind that your fall crops need to receive direct sunlight for at least eight hours per day. Your soil should be finely tilled and contain no leftover compost from previous harvests. And don’t forget your plants need their own food to grow. Houston vegetable gardening requires one of two fertilizing methods:
- 1 pound of ammonium sulfate per 100 square feet before planting, followed by 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate around each plant every three weeks, plus water.
- Or 1 to 2 pounds of slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet, followed by 1 tablespoon of ammonium sulfate around each plant every three weeks, plus water.
Slow-release fertilizer typically produces a more abundant harvest, but make sure you don’t add too much ammonium sulfate too close to the plants — overdoing may damage the plants. You want to feed the soil rather than the plants themselves. For an entirely organic garden, you can substitute horse or cattle manure at 60 to 80 pounds per 100 square feet of garden area, but never use poultry manure in your fall garden.
When your soil is tilled with fertilizer, water your garden with a sprinkler for at least two straight hours and then allow your garden to dry for a minimum of three days before planting your seeds. Now on to the main show — choosing your crops.
Best Vegetables to Grow in Houston
No matter which vegetables you plan to grow in your fall garden, it’s important that you plant before the winter frost around December 20. It’s also important to note that fall vegetables generally grow better in your garden as transplants, meaning it’s best to plant seeds indoors and wait for them to sprout before sowing them into your outdoor garden. Here’s a beginner guide of what vegetables to plant in Houston and when:
- Brussel Sprouts
While results will inevitably vary based on factors like soil, watering, sunlight and more, these are the general rules of thumb when planning your planting. There are plenty of other resources that go into far more depth about the ins and outs of garden care and planting strategies. The main thing to remember is to take fastidious care of every plant, and of course, enjoy your gardening!
Benefits of Gardening for Seniors
Besides the obvious nutritional value of growing your own organic vegetables, there are many mental and physical benefits of gardening for seniors. Each individual will find their own favorite part of gardening, but everyone can reap the overarching benefits:
- Gardening isn’t just about growing your own food. It has a profound ability to keep your mind active. Having a results-oriented hobby like gardening has a tremendous impact on how our brains function. Problem-solving, sensory awareness and working with your hands are all attributed to keeping your mind sharp. Plus, there’s the added benefit of the many ways healthy eating helps cognitive longevity.
- Another beautiful benefit to gardening is breaking a sweat without even realizing it. Regular gardening is an excellent way for our aging bodies to get a low-intensity aerobic workout. With proper planning and precautionary measures, gardening allows you to stay flexible, burn calories and keep your stamina up, all while having fun in the sun. Just remember to stay hydrated and stretch as much as possible.
- Be sure to protect yourself when you’re enjoying the sunshine. Always wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 any time you’re in direct sunlight. It’s also a good idea to wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and sunglasses to avoid any possible cornea damage.
- Gardening is one of the best ways to increase serotonin levels and lower cortisol levels. Serotonin is the chemical our brains produce to activate calming, feel-good emotions, while cortisol is the chemical triggering stress and anxiety. Daily gardening is scientifically proven to manage your brain’s chemical stimulants, not to mention there’s no better feeling than harvesting and eating produce grown by your own two hands.
- To say many friendships are formed and strengthened through sharing gardening tips and nutritious food would be an understatement. Gardening has a unique way of bringing people together for a common purpose. Community gardens provide a space for meeting and interacting with old and new friends, and the satisfaction of beautifying your neighborhood.
As a premier senior living community in Houston, The Buckingham proudly offers second-to-none programs designed to cater to our residents’ specific interests. We encourage our residents to take up a wide variety of new hobbies, like gardening in our own community resident vegetable garden, that focus on wellness and living life to the fullest.