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Gardening offers health benefits

Many studies show that gardening promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, of the 436 adults surveyed, community gardeners consumed fruits and vegetables 5.7 times per day, home gardeners 4.6 times per day and nongardeners 3.9 times per day.

Engaging children in the gardening process is an excellent way to promote a healthy lifestyle. According to a University of North Carolina study of 120 children, by the end of their participation in a weekly gardening workshop, 17 percent of obese and overweight children had improved their body mass index (BMI) classification and 100 percent of the children with a BMI classification of normal maintained that status.

Some researchers have linked gardening to the prevention of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones through time. Walking, lifting watering cans and hoeing are a few of the gardening activities that help strengthen our bones.

If you are interested in gardening but don’t know how to get started, here are some tips:

* Find a place to plant a garden. A community garden may be an option. Contact your community garden about reserving a spot soon because garden plots may be in demand. If you have space, ensure it has rich soil and full sun exposure. If you do not have a community garden or enough space, consider planting vegetables such as string beans or tomatoes in containers.

* Locate a water source. Most vegetables aren’t drought-tolerant; you’ll need to give them drinks during the dry spells. Remember, the closer the water source, the easier for you to make sure your plants get the water they need.

* Decide what to plant. Choose plants that grow well in your climate. For example, corn, potatoes and tomatoes are dominant plants in North Dakota.

* Decide on a growing method. You can start growing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers indoors, then transplant the seedlings to your garden when the weather warms. Or you can sow seeds for vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beans and peas directly into the garden.

* Know when to plant. In North Dakota, the best time generally is in May, but since we’ve had a very rainy month, the beginning of June is OK, too.

* Enjoy your garden. Gardening provides an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also is an excellent source of physical activity for you and your family.

For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.ritten