Monday, March 7, 2016

#Gardening--Winter to Summer #Therapy by Karen Rose Smith

Our winters in Pennsylvania seem to last forever. I have arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis, all conditions which are not winter friendly. I don't venture out in ice and snow. Fluctuating temperatures can affect pain levels. The weather can lead to inactivity (except for work which is ongoing and sedentary.) I care for stray and feral cats for their welfare and to keep me moving on a basic level. Our four rescued cats inside have their own demands but they aren't taxing. Every year I look forward to an activity that helps me focus on better health and spring. That activity is

After the bustle and busyness of the holidays, the activity slowdown led me to look for motivation and something positive to keep my activity level up. My husband gave up his work table and we set up another. On those I put a plant heat pad and above each a grow light. I order seeds and I get started with my winter-to-spring therapy--starting flowers in January and February, heirloom tomatoes in March, and sunflowers and zucchini in May. Around Memorial Day, I use my cane to dig a trench and I drop zinnia seeds and cover them lightly with the loose dirt, again with my cane.  Zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow.

This year in January I started geraniums, petunias and impatiens. Each year I don't know which will grow heartily. This year the impatiens have really taken off and they are already a size that could be planted. They have two months before I'm ready to do that. So I've taken them off the heat pad and just put them under a grow light. The geraniums are coming along slowly and nicely. The petunias, which take the longest, are puttering along. I started the heirloom tomatoes this week.

But whatever plants grow...they give me the activity I need with standing time to plant and water as well as movement in shifting around trays with varying weight levels. As I transplant each plant into a larger peat pot, the plants themselves help me increase the amount of weight I'm carrying and manipulating. Come spring, I'm lifting full trays of plants and gallon pots.

There is such satisfaction in seeing a seed develop into a tine seedling and then a six inch plant. There is such joy in watching these plants bloom or bear fruit. There is also more patio activity involved in trimming the plants and watering them on the patio throughout the summer. When tomatoes are at their height, I freeze them for winter. We still have tomatoes in the freezer from last summer that are so wonderful as a basis for soup. I'm hoping for a banner crop this year. My husband plants about 25 tomato plants and we give the rest to neighbors and family.

Most of the flowers I plant attract butterflies and hummingbirds which is a side benefit to the color and scent. I enjoy photographing both the gardens and the creatures--more activity. Some years I collect rose petals and dry them to make sachet bags for Christmas presents. Gardens just keep on giving.

We each have to find whatever benefits us to keep us strong. Gardening does that for me...and relaxes me too. Therapy at its finest.




USA TODAY Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith is an only child who delved into books at an early age. She learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and wished she could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though she escaped often into story worlds, she had many aunts, uncles and cousins around her on weekends. Her sense of family and relationships began there. Maybe that's why families are a strong theme in her novels, whether mysteries or romances. Her 95th novel will be released in 2016.

Readers often ask her about her pastimes. She has herb, flowers and vegetable gardens that help her relax. In the winter, she cooks rather than gardens.  And year round she spends most of her time with her husband, as well as her four rescued cats who are her constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding her life isn't all about work, awards and bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.

Karen looks forward to interacting with readers. They can find her at the links below. 



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