Home Gardening


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Story by Dave Eckert

As we head into the heart of winter here in Kansas City, most of us aren’t thinking about gardening. But I guarantee you James Worley is. Known as “the tomato whisperer” in foodie circles around town, Worley is entering his second season of crafting home gardens throughout the metro with his business, Yum Yards. “We build them, plant them, and maintain them throughout the year,” Worley shared. “We plant everything, pull weeds, take care of the plants-everything that needs to be done to keep the garden healthy. Basically, all you have to do is water the plants and pick and eat the produce. It’s pretty cool.”

The customers determine the size of the garden, what goes into it, and how it’s maintained. For example, if you want your garden to be organic, Worley will only use organic produce and materials. If you want 20-types of tomatoes, you will get 20-types of tomatoes. It’s basically one-stop shopping for your home garden.

I’ve been home gardening for years with limited success, but I plant with renewed optimism each year. Why? Well, first, I love harvesting and eating my own tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. And, second, it gets me outside and makes me feel better. Turns out, there’s some science to my reasoning. The AARP cites five health-driven reasons of home gardening, and exposure to sunlight is number one on the list. Here are the AARP’s five health-boosting home gardening benefits.

1.  Exposure to Vitamin D 

Vitamin D increases your calcium levels, which benefits your bones and immune system. Outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your sunshine while pursuing a fun hobby.

2.  Decreased Dementia Risk 

A 2006 study found that gardening could lower the risk of dementia by 36-percent. Researchers tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.

3.  Mood-Boosting Benefits

A study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

4.  Enjoyable Aerobic Exercise

Gardening is a great form of aerobic exercise. Plus, you might become so engrossed in your work that you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat. Pulling weeds, reaching for various plants and tools, and twisting and bending as you plant will work new muscles in your body and help with strength, stamina, and flexibility.

5.  Helps Combat Loneliness

After retirement, many people struggle with fewer opportunities for socialization. Community gardens can be a fun way to engage with others while providing benefits to neighborhoods. The American Community Gardening Association offers a locator tool for finding your nearest community garden.

All are great reasons to home garden. It seems our “tomato whisperer” friend is onto something here! “I had 40 gardens last year, and I’m hoping to top 100 this year. It’s definitely a growth industry.” And not just that, it’s a growth industry with some serious beneficial health upside to it. To learn more about Yum Yards, head online to yumyards.com