Gardening is a wonderful activity that you can do with your loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Gardening is an excellent away to spend time outdoors, enjoy low-intensity exercise, bond with your loved one, and do something that will result in a tangible result – tasty food! With the right preparation, gardening can also be an activity the brings fun and joy to your lives and makes special memories.
As we move from the warm summer months into fall, now is the perfect time to begin your fall garden. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the San Diego area get to enjoy a “second spring.” Our warm fall weather lets us plants lots of tasty veggies that will thrive with the right care. Now is also the time to start thinking about spring flowers!
Container Garden, Raised Garden, or Yard?
If this is the first time you’ve started a garden with your loved one, your first step will be to decide where to put the garden. If your loved one lives in an apartment or condo, consider starting a container garden on the patio or building planter boxes.
If you plan on planting the garden in the yard, find an area that receives a good mixture of sun and shade and that can be protected from critters.
Choose Your Veggies
Certain plants grow better in the fall than in the spring, so choose plants that have the best chance of surviving and thriving. Some of the best fall veggies to plant in San Diego include:
- Brussels sprouts
If this is your first garden, we suggest starting small, with only a few different veggies for your first season. Consider this round an experiment. If your plants don’t thrive, ask an expert at your local gardening center to help you learn what you can improve the next season.
When considering which veggies to plant, let your loved one help you choose. Which veggies do they enjoy eating? You might also want to consider trying radishes, since they grow quickly, so you can see the results of your work sooner.
Fun Tip: It can be difficult to grow vegetables from seeds, especially in cooler weather. To speed up the gardening process, consider purchasing starter plants rather than seed packets. If you do want to start from seed, the easiest veggies to grow are turnips, carrots, and radishes.
Start Planning for Your Spring Flower Garden
Nothing says spring like bunches of bright, fragrant flowers popping up in your back yard. However, those flowers don’t just appear by magic. Fall is actually when you want to start planting flower bulbs that will grow and bloom just in time for spring. Some of the best bulbs to plant right now for a spring flower bonanza are:
- Calla Lilies
Double Check Your Tools
Now is a great time to make sure you have everything you need to successfully start your garden. Check to make sure your tools are in working order, like your trowel, shovel, and clippers. Next, pick up the supplies that you need, like:
- Potting soil
- Stakes and ties
- Protective mesh
Time to Plant
It’s time to create your garden! If you are creating a container garden, don’t re-use your old potting soil. Instead, make sure you replace it with fresh, new soil. If your garden is located in your yard, consider adding a new layer of fertilizer on the garden to give your plants the nutrition they need to grow strong and healthy. You may also want to add a layer of mulch on top to help keep in moisturizer and to protect your plants from critters.
What to Watch Out For
Fall brings cooler temperatures, even to San Diego. Fall is also the start of our “rainy” season. Keep these facts in mind when you water your garden. Your garden will need less water than during the dry, hot days of spring and summer.
Fortunately, most bugs leave us alone during the fall and winter season, but keep an eye out for snails and slugs, which love cold weather and yummy plants. Check your garden in the early morning. If you see snails or slugs, pick them off. If they become a problem, you can lay out some snail bait.
Enjoy the Journey
Picking tasty, healthy food that you grew in your own garden is always a satisfying experience, but the real beauty of creating a fall garden is sharing an activity with your loved one. At Sunshine Care, our residents help us plant, care for, and harvest over 20,000 pounds of organic fruits and veggies every year. This organic, healthy food goes right into our diverse menu!
Our gardens are a central part of our activity calendar, and our residents love the opportunity to work with the soil and care for our garden as it grows. We hope that you and your loved one will bond over your fall garden as well!
Want to see our gardens and learn about all the ways we incorporate gardening in our activity programming? Contact us to schedule a tour of our facility today, or sign up for the next educational event hosted by “Farmer Roy,” our Director of Horticulture.