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Hey, Everybody, today I want to talk about the top eight ways to get more exercise when you garden. A low-maintenance garden, one that you can just putter around in, pulling a weed here and there and flicking off the occasional pest, has its advantages. But it has one huge disadvantage, and that is, it doesn’t allow you to maximize either your strength-training or cardio workout.

And we wouldn’t want that to happen. So without further ado, here are the top eight ways to get more exercise when you garden.

Number eight:

If you’re growing to grow vines on a vertical-type trellis be sure to plant the vine right at the end of the trellis. Remember, vines don’t just grow in one direction. They grow in all direction. So if you plant a vine in a middle of a trellis, it will be able to spread out in both directions without needing to be pruned.

But more work equals more exercise, right? So be sure to plant your vines at the very end of a vertical trellis so that you will be forced to out and cut off branches that are going in the wrong direction every few weeks.

Another vine crop many people like to grow is grapes. And speaking of grapes,

number seven is to plant things that really, really don’t do well in your area.

For example, if you live in a humid subtropical climate like we do, you probably get lots of rain in the spring, surrounded by very humid days. This constant high humidity is a breeding ground for fungi, including the block rot which most grape varieties are not resistant to.

Therefore, you want to go ahead and grow grapes. Why? Because every couple of weeks during the spring, you will have to go out an spray the entire vine with a fungicide. This doesn’t provide a huge amount of exercise, but every little bit helps.

Grapes are only one example. Do some research and figure out which garden crops have trouble with the climate or soil in your particular area, and be sure to grow them.

Number six:

demonize container gardening. For example, say you live in an area with acidic soil, and you want to grow goji berries. Goji berry bushes hate acid soil, so what do you do?

To maximize your exercise, amend the soil two to three feet down in an area two to three feet in diameter, and plant the gojis there. You will get even more exercise should the bushes shrivel up and die because you will throw a big, huge adult-sized tantrum.

Don’t ever use containers instead. Container gardening is for lazy people, who don’t want to spend hours digging and collecting organic material. Also, when you grow things in containers the fertilizer and water you put in go exactly where they need to go, preventing you from doing the extra work of extra watering and fertilizing because most of it flows away from the roots.

And don’t forget: never use plastic containers. Plastic is EVIL. And save you even more work, because they hold in water better than either clay pots or fabric pots.

The fifth top way to get more exercise from your garden:

Let your crops that like to get out of control, get completely out of control.

For example, red malabar spinach goes CRAZY once it gets hot. If you let a lot of those vines grow, they will turn into a mini-jungle that will provide you with hours of pruning and carrying away of foliage once the growing season ends. That will really help you toward those 10,000 steps you’re supposed to take every day.

Number four:

prepare your garden beds using the double-dig method. Lasagna gardening, the Ruth Stout method, and the Back to Eden method are all techniques in which you pile up organic material onto the existing soil and allow it to turn into even richer soil. This is the lazy way to build a garden bed. Sure, there is some exercise involved, but not nearly as much exercise as is provided by the double-digging method. This method of bed preparation is also guaranteed to stress your back, and we all know how healthy it is to stress back muscles, right?

The third top way to get more exercise when you garden

is to not mulch your soil. Whether you use leaves, wood chips, or straw, mulch helps preserve the moisture in the soil while it inhibits weed growth. This means, if you put mulch down in your garden, that you won’t have to water as much or weed as much.

This means, you won’t get as much exercise. So be sure not to use mulch.

Number two:

don’t fence in your garden. Thus, critters of all kinds will come and eat up your crops. This will add to your exercise routine in several ways. First, you will spend a lot more time sowing seeds and planting transplants. Second, you will end up jumping up and down and stomping in frustration. Great cardio. Finally, if you have a gun, you will likely, at some point, end up running after the hungry critters and trying to turn them into stewpot material.

And finally, the number one way to get more exercise when you garden:

water by hand. Even if you have a big garden. You don’t want to set up an automatic irrigation system in your garden. When you drag buckets, or even just gallon jugs, of water from the rain barrel or hose, you get both extra strength training and extra aerobic exercise. You can kick it up a notch by walking as fast as you can, even running, if possible, between the water source and your garden plants.

You get an extra bonus in the summer, when it’s so hot and humid that you start dripping with sweat after only a few minutes into your watering chore. Sweating helps clear toxins from your body, you know.

Well, there you go. The top eight way to get more exercise when you garden. Exercise equals greater health, right? And we all want to be healthy.

Thanks for sticking to this post to its warped end, and remember: if you believe everything you hear or read on the Internet, it’s not my fault.


Bye-Bye, Vertical Garden!

The vertical strawberry garden was going to be like a second savior to me. If I got the strawberries out of the ground, they wouldn’t be so prone to the rot fungus, anthracnose, that they get every year. Right? And the mice wouldn’t be able to get to them.

Here’s how it was supposed to work (uh-oh, note the phrase “supposed to”): I poke a hole in the bottom of a container (I used empty frozen fruit bags), insert a rope the height of the container plus two inches, then fill the container with soil, working it in around the rope. Finally, I plant in a strawberry plant.

The extra rope hanging out the bottom would go down into a hole in the PVC pipe, and was supposed to wick the water in the pipe up into the soil.

Uh-oh. There’s that phrase “supposed to” again.

And it was only supposed to require a once-a-week watering.

Aaannd…another one! Three “supposed to’s”. Can you guess what’s coming?

Yep. The wicking failed, and the pipes needed refilling several times a week, not one.

Besides many of the plants drying up thanks to the wicking not keeping enough of the soil moist, the fruits in the vertical garden got rot just the same as the ones that I’d left in the ground.

What to do? What to do? J had spent so much time putting the structure together. I wasn’t going to let myself give up.

I know! Redo the containers, but this time coil the rope inside the soil so the water could get to more of the plants’ roots.

Newsflash: I despised putting the containers together the first time. Would I really want to redo it?

Okay, so maybe I can plant something else instead, something with a simpler wicking solution. What about fashioning containers out of fabric that would fit into the one-and-a-half inch holes – finger-shaped things – fill  them with coconut coir, and grow lettuce and spinach on the vertical garden?

Yeah, yeah, that would work! And I could quit feeling guilty for having asked J to build the structure, because I would use it for something, right?

But after some time, I realized I didn’t want to do the work it would require to improvise such tiny containers.

Back to the drawing board.

Hmm. Thinking, thinking…I still want to grow strawberries. Might there be a more effective way to use the pipes than the rope-wicking way?

I know! Line frozen fruit bags with landscaping fabric. Poke a hole in the middle of the bottom of each bag that’s big enough to push two inches of the fabric through. When I fill the bag with potting mix, I make sure to fill that little “finger” so that when I stick it into the water-filled pipe, it will suck up water.

The concept works, but after making three such bags I again asked myself, “Do I want to have to pay for the therapy I’ll need after putting fifty or more of these bags together?”

The answer was a definite, “Probably not.”

In the meantime, J had told me a couple of times that he wouldn’t mind taking the thing apart. Really.

But I just couldn’t let him do it. I made him make the thing, so by golly, I was going to figure out a use for it!

Except…every single idea I had overwhelmed me. And besides, underlying each idea was the thought that it might fail as big as the original idea had.

Finally, I stopped trying to figure out how to use the vertical garden structure, and started trying to figure out why I couldn’t just let J take it down.

The answer came swift and sure: guilt. Because when you make a mistake, don’t you know, you can’t just be forgiven of it and move on. No. You have to do penance. You have to work for forgiveness.

That’s what I was brought up believing. And even though I started hearing differently as an adult, some of Satan’s hooks just take more time and effort to pull out than others.

God used the vertical strawberry garden to show me that, after years of struggling out of the bonds of religion, they still had a hold on my soul. In the back of my mind, I still believed that I didn’t deserve instant forgiveness for my mistakes and wrongdoing. That I had to earn it by beating myself over the head with guilt, and bending over backwards to make things right.

No more!

When the weather cools down a bit, that structure is going bye-bye. And, starting right now, I’m not going to feel guilty about it a second longer.

But I learned my lesson. Like I implied at the end of this post, I’m not going to have any more bright ideas that will involve huge projects on which J would have to do most of the work.


Never Say Never

“Never say never.”

I never (whoops, said it!) really understood that phrase until I was in my late twenties. It hit me even harder in my mid-thirties.

By then, I had learned the horrible truth: when you say you’re never going to do something, a divine ha, ha, ha! echoes through the heavens, and an invisible hand begins to slowly tweak your circumstances so that before you know it, you’re doing those things you said you’d never do.

As a teenager, I looked around at my three siblings (because I was the Perfect Child, don’t you know) and decided that I never wanted children. At the same time, I wanted to be a good Catholic. Catholics are not supposed to have sex unless they are number one, married, and number two, open to conceiving a child with every “act of marriage”.

And so, with much reluctance on my horny late teenager part, I decided I would never get married. This I announced openly to my mother who would hear it at least a dozen times over the next decade.

By age thirty-five, I was married. By age thirty-six, I’d had a baby.

Desperate to find a teaching job after college, I found myself in a big city nearly a thousand miles away from where I’d grown up. I had on purposely not taken any early childhood courses in college, not received certification in that area. Because I didn’t like little kids, so I was never going to teach Kindergarten.

In that city I’d moved to lived many Hispanic immigrants, and so the school district had a bilingual program. Therefore, so did the school that eventually hired me.

Having received my teacher education in an area where immigrants were immersed in English in school – only taught their native language at home – I lifted my nose in the air and said, “I will teach in this school, but I will never teach in a bilingual classroom.”

Little did I know that the principal was spying on me, hearing me speak in Spanish to Spanish-speaking parents, rubbing his hands together in glee as he plotted to stick my hoity-toity nose into the dirt. At the end of my fourth year teaching, he assigned me to a bilingual classroom for the coming year.

A Kindergarten bilingual classroom.

Ah, ha, ha, ha! boomed the mirthful Voice In The Sky.

Since my mid-thirties, I have been tempted to say that I would never do any number of things. I was never going to have another baby. I was never going to live in a city again. I was never going to teach in a classroom again.

I have resisted temptation. I learned my lesson.

Wait! Hold on! Why didn’t I think of this before?

“I will never be a New York Times number one bestselling author.”

“I will never sing on a stage and wow an audience of thousands.”

“Hubby and I will never be self-sufficient in growing fruits and vegetables.”

“I will never act in a movie.”

“I will never…”

Hey! Reader! Are you laughing at me?


To What End?

Back when we were part of the institutional church, the woman whom we called “pastor” at the time once asked from the pulpit, “To what end?” She was encouraging and challenging her congregation to ask that question before setting out to do something.

Of course, she put a spiritual spin on it. If the answer isn’t, “To glorify God”, or, “To fulfill God’s will for my life” or whatever, we shouldn’t do it.

I’ve asked myself that question a lot since then, but usually not in a spiritual context. I just want to drill down and check my motive for doing something.

Wait. That is kinda spiritually related, isn’t it? Your motives.

Confession time: more often than not, the motive revolves around my selfishness or pride.

Such is the case with the lasagna beds J and I have been building. Lasagna gardening is a way to create rich soil for growing by layering organic material in the area where you want a garden bed. It’s composting in place, with a layer of cardboard or newspaper at the bottom to discourage weeds from growing, then alternating layers of carbon-rich (leaves, shredded paper) material with nitrogen-rich (food scraps, grass clippings, weeds) material.

The different layers is how it gets its name, lasagna gardening.

We – more so J – have been sweltering in this hot, humid summer to gather materials for the beds, two and a half ten-by-three-foot beds so far. It’s taken a ton of time, a toll on my lower back which refuses to heal, and most of our energy.

It’s been miserable.

So I finally asked myself, “To what end?” Why have we been making ourselves miserable day after day and week after week to build these beds, when we have the money to just fill the boxes with potting mix?

You know why? Half guilt, and half pride. Guilt, for three reasons. Number one, it’s evil to buy things in plastic bags (everybody’s aim is supposed to be zero waste, don’t you know). Number two, shouldn’t we be more frugal and keep as much money as we can in our funds “just in case”? And number three, we have all the leaves, grass and weeds we could ever want for building lasagna beds. So we should suck it up and do the hard work of using the resources on our property.

Where does pride come in? Bragging rights. “Look, we garden the economical and natural way.”

Special emphasis on the word “natural.”

Because don’t you know, people who container-garden or otherwise don’t figure out how to work with the native soil (by amending the soil or building lasagna beds or using heavy mulch) are inferior to people who garden “naturally.”

Fine, then. We’ll go on and be inferior. We’re going to fill the top half of this third bed we’ve started with potting mix, as well as the entire fourth, fifth, and sixth beds. And this winter, when the organic material in the first two beds have composted down to four to six inches, we’ll fill up the remaining four to six inches with potting mix.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll stop hating this miserable summer weather so much. Because I won’t be forcing us to be working our tails off in it for hours on end.





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