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By: Carmen Dexter
As we age, we face limitations on what we can do, both physically and mentally. Maybe you’re confined indoors and have to say goodbye to hobbies that are simply too challenging. But if gardening is your life-long joy, you don’t have to give it up!
Gardening –– even indoors –– is proven to have numerous benefits for older adults. It increases physical activity and lowers depression. Getting your fingers in the dirt relieves stress and anxiety. Growing vegetables or flowers gives you a feeling of accomplishment. And having greenery inside your home provides beauty and cleaner air.
There are several ways to incorporate indoor gardens into your lifestyle. Here, we take a look at some of the easier choices.
When you can’t go out, go up! These structures are perfect for seniors who aren’t as mobile as they used to be because they can be tended to with little effort.
As the name implies, vertical gardens work their way up, rather than out. They can be free-standing on shelves, attached to a wall, or woven through a trellis. This makes gardening far easier on the back and legs. Folks can adjust the height to fit their specific needs.
Plant selection is key for vertical gardens. Stay away from fast-climbing vines, invasive species, and root crops, as they will dominate the space. You’ll still have many good choices, whether you’re growing vegetables, flowers, or plants.
Best Vegetables for Vertical Gardens
- Leafy greens
Best Flowers and Plants for Vertical Gardens
- American honeysuckle
- Peace lily
When planning your vertical garden, remember that some plants are toxic to pets. Also, work out a drainage system ahead of time. Plant containers need to drain. Set them up so water isn’t going all over your floor.
If a vertical garden looks like too much work, a terrarium still lets you use your green thumb, while making your workspace even more compact. It’s a mini-greenhouse –– an enclosed glass container with plants inside.
Terrariums require little maintenance. The plants and soil inside release water vapor, which collects on the walls of the glass and trickles back down into the soil. The container does need to stay sealed (except when you’re working on it) for the self-watering to work.
Despite its tiny size, you’re still “gardening” in a terrarium. You’ll need to water, although not very often, and remove any brown or yellow leaves. If growing a fern, trim the leaves occasionally to keep it from overgrowing.
Foliage and slow-growing plants work best in this structure. There is an abundance of plants to pick from, including:
- Creeping fig
For older adults who are no longer active but still enjoy cooking, a windowsill herb garden may be the answer. You’ll enjoy the mechanics of gardening while growing the contents of your spice rack.
Herb gardens are perfect for indoor cultivation. The containers are tiny and you can easily move them into the sun or place them out of reach of pets. And while they’re relatively simple to grow, having the right steps in place ensures success.
Of course, the most important decision is what to grow. Well, what do you like to eat? The best herb gardens include parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, thyme, and oregano. If you’re adventurous, consider growing stevia (a sweetener), lemongrass (mild citrus flavor), and garlic chives (sweet garlic flavor).
These sturdy plants are perfect for indoor gardens because the warm, dry atmosphere in a home works just fine for them. Succulents need very little water to survive since they store more moisture than other plants. You still get the beauty of indoor greenery without much of the work.
Grow succulents in a small container, a floor pot, or a hanging planter, depending on the size of the plant. Use a coarse potting mix with good drainage and be sure your container has a drainage hole. Too much water causes them to rot and die in a matter of days. Put the plants in an area that gets 4-6 hours of sunlight each day and fertilize them once a year.
The beauty of succulents is that they have so many different looks and colors. Some have spikes and some are smooth; some grow in circles, while others stretch out straight. The most popular succulents for indoor gardening include:
- Christmas cactus
- Aloe vera
- Snake plant
- Burro’s tail
No matter which type of indoor garden you choose, research your plants before you get your hands dirty. Know how often to water and how much sunlight and space they need. If you’re unsuccessful once in a while, the plants can always be replaced.
If you need a little help, consider joining a garden club online or following gardeners on social media. These activities help keep you happy and healthy and engaging with others who have the same interests. So set up your garden indoors and enjoy!
Carmen Dexter is a journalist and teacher living in Texas. Her favorite activities include concerts, football games, and, of course, writing! On any given evening, you’ll find Carmen playing with her dogs, Rizzo and Rocky.