When we retired, we realized we finally had time to do things we have wanted to do for many years. It might be fun to take a course specifically designed for seniors, or travel to places we have always wanted to visit, or learn how to better use the computer, or read some of the books given to us over the years. Among our hopes was that we could learn to grow our own summer vegetables and flowers, to gain more knowledge of ways to garden.

We quickly realized that we have access to more information on gardening than we can use. Why are the leaves on my tall tomato plant dying? The National Gardening Association can explain that. How should I plant zinnias? Type in “How to plant zinnias” and Google will list many websites with advice. What do I need to do to keep insects from eating my vegetable or flower plant leaves? Google that question and you’ll get lots of answers, for example how to catch and kill Japanese beetles, what insecticides can be used safely on vegetable plants, or how to use row cover to protect plants. Go to the OSU Extension website for information specific to gardening in Ohio, or to extension sites of many other universities. Commercial plant companies also have websites with information on growing the plants they sell. The Soil and Water Conservation office in the county can also help if you have challenges.

Information is readily available. We also need seeds and plants and a place for them to grow. Some seniors have good garden spaces; others have other places such as the sunny flowerbeds around their house where vegetables will grow well. A row of lettuce that follows the curve of the bed makes a lovely edge to the plants growing behind it. Add taller vegetable plants behind the lettuce and watch the edible beauty rise.

Some seniors can no longer get down (or cannot get back up!) so instead of a prepared flowerbed, we plant vegetables in pots or elevated beds. Commercial ones are available in the large stores, some of them even self-watering. There are books on Square Foot Gardening for those who are interested in experimenting with methods.

It is difficult to beat the taste of home grown tomatoes, cucumbers (yes, they actually have a taste!) and other veggies. In the process of growing them, you will get exercise and learn new things to keep your mind active.

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