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Five fun reasons to start an indoor garden when life gets more restricting

Moving to smaller space, restricted mobility offer new opportunities for senior gardeners

by Arar Han, Certified Aging in Place Specialist

An older woman holding a pink roseJan. 6, 2015 - Gardening is hardly ever a casual hobby. Most 'green thumbs' regard the first time they were handed a spade with the same warm nostalgia as their high school graduation, wedding day, or the birth of their first child. If you are a gardener, you know it's true!

If you have recently moved into a smaller space or your mobility is not what it used to be, you may be nervous that you have to give up your favorite pastime. Not so! There are tons of plants that thrive indoors - and at least five reasons why planter gardening is actually superior to maintaining outdoor beds.

1. Picking out funky containers. 

When creating your indoor garden, consider the wide range of choices for pots—as conventional or eccentric as you wish.

Most plants need a depth of four to five inches to grow comfortably. When choosing your containers keep in mind:

  ● Container Material – avoid toxic residues. Clean the vessel thoroughly and use appropriate liners.

  ● Drainage – for some plants, you will need to poke or drill holes in the bottom and set it on a tray to contain the runoff.

  ● Variety – mix colors, shapes, and textures for an attractive look that matches (or "power-clashes") with your home's design.

  ● Recycling – why throw out a perfectly good peanut butter jar when it can be decorated to hold a cute little sprig of rosemary? Or how about an old shoe? Seriously—the ceiling is the limit with this one.

2. Just the right amount of DIY. 

When you had a sprawling garden, you had to buy soil. But since an indoor potting soil batch is small, make your own! You can routinely add some extra kitchen compost and use fertilizer granules as needed, about every two to six weeks. This gives you the opportunity to really get your hands dirty in that soul-satisfying way that true gardeners crave. You'll be so proud of your little green babies when they start to sprout.

3. Complete control over sunshine exposure. 

Position your garden containers near a south-facing window to get the most sun, especially if you live in an area that experiences a brisk winter season. Avoid drafty areas during the chilly months—stable temperatures between 45-79ºF are ideal. You can even set up some mirrors to reflect sunlight onto your planters. Another option is to get an indoor grow light system that can be set to a timer.

4. Watering is a breeze. 

Although plants may not say it out loud, they definitely appreciate your help finding a drink of water. Adhering to a watering schedule is easy indoors, as you share space with your green buddies constantly. Keeping leaves trimmed and fresh is easy when you walk by multiple times a day! Just remember to let the soil go slightly dry between each watering.


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5. Get more in return. 

Besides adding a homey feel and splashes of color to your rooms, the health benefits of coexisting with indoor greenery are huge. Indoor plants have always been a part of human society, and for good reason. Plants have been shown to reduce stress and depression. And they ask so little of you!

So, what to grow? Flowers and herbs grow wonderfully in small spaces. But vegetables actually do, too! Full of vitamins and minerals, a new love for cooking may just follow in your gardening footsteps.

  ● Hot peppers: If you can take the heat, these are full of capsaicin, a powerful antioxidant. Many people find more luck growing hot peppers indoors than out!

  ● Carrots: These are full of many good vitamins for seniors, including thiamin, niacin, folate, manganese, potassium, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K. They also supply carotenoids, which are key for healthy eyes.

  ● Mushrooms: Either you love them or you hate them! Mushrooms are a great source of fiber and vitamin C, antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. These grow well in a container like a laundry basket or old drawer.

  ● Mixed greens: Basically the healthiest food on the planet—there's a reason why salads are on every restaurant's menu. Try a seedling mixture of salad greens, like iceberg, spinach, romaine, red leaf, and arugula. They're chock full of vitamins A, C, and K, in addition to foliate and iron.

  ● Avocados: These are stuffed with healthy fats, and vitamins E and B6. They also contain carotenoids—which are high in vitamin A and have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye degeneration. Avocados are an incredibly delicious addition to complete a dish, or grab one just as a snack! Use a big pot and start with a dwarf tree for best results.

Even when your lifestyle changes, your love for gardening doesn't have to. Whatever you grow, remember to take a moment to bask in the satisfaction of what you have created with your own two hands.

Author Arar Han is co-CEO of Alert-One, a personal safety technology and consulting firm headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with offices nationwide. A certified Aging in Place Specialist, Arar holds a dual degree in Philosophy and Human Development from Boston College, summa cum laude, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Originally from Seoul, she currently lives in Palo Alto with her family.

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