Have you ever sat outside and wondered what the name of the bird is that is singing? Why not try downloading the “Chirp! Bird Songs USA+” App from the iTunes store. You can start with the birds you may hear in your yard such as, Robins, Cardinals, and House Finch. Listen to their songs and use the Chirp App to help identify the species, as well as read background information on each bird. It is great fun and something that you can share with others. There is a ‘Challenge’ feature to test your own knowledge or maybe help others learn more about this popular hobby. The slideshow option is great background option, in case you want to take a nature break from the computer or a busy day. A cautionary note – it may drive your cat crazy!
One of the questions asked at the end of a lecture at the Leading Age Conference involved the maintenance of a Therapeutic Garden. The person asked if these gardens require more to maintain than other gardens. They were interested in reducing on- going maintenance in a garden. The simple answer is that all gardens require maintenance, however, if properly designed, gardens can require lower maintenance. A few suggestions to help reduce the care and maintenance of a garden include:
- Select plants that do not require frequent pruning
- Include indigenous plants – they will require less water and are suited for the region
- Limit the amount of annuals (plants that grow for just one season) and include more perennials
- Space plants closer together so they fill out sooner
- Eliminate plants that require constant pruning, such as hedges
- Organize gardening groups to help maintain the garden – it is good exercise and a way to stay socially engaged
- Plan special events to include garden ‘work’ parties
- Solicit the involvement of garden clubs, master gardeners and other interested people
- Hold classes in the garden to teach others gardening basics
- Create an endowment for the care and maintenance of the garden
These are a few of the basic ideas for helping to reduce the maintenance of the garden and a way to get others involved. A good design at the beginning insures that the garden gets off to a good start and improves its chances for success. Strategies to develop garden partners can help can reduce the maintenance burden on staff.
This is the time of year to check out leaf colors. During the day today, I had to slow down to take in all of the colors along the roadside. One of the first trees to turn in this region are the Black Gum trees with their red and magenta hues. Sassafras are a particular favorite illustrating bright orange, yellow and red colors. The brilliant yellow of the Locust trees is almost blinding. The Maple trees are just starting to turn color, so the sequencing of the autumn color display goes on for weeks.
This is a great activity for everyone to get involved in. One of the ways is to take a walk outside in the garden and around the neighborhood. You will not only discover a wide range of trees, you will reconnect with friends and neighbors. Some activities include:
- Ask people what their favorite trees are. See what comes up as the most popular.
- Take a camera along to record what is found and to show others later. maybe have a slide show or hang pictures of favorite trees.
- Collect various samples of the leaves that can be brought back for identification. See how many different leaves can be found.
- Have a contest to see how many trees can be identified. Bring along one of the tree I.D. books or use one of the Apps’ for your phone such as ‘Leaf Snap’
- Organize a joint adventure between a school group and elders from the community for a joint lesson in tree identification
- Visit and arboretum or nature center to explore many of the native trees in your area – and meet new people at the same time
These and other activities can be planned easily and quickly. No special equipment is required. Just a comfortable pair of shoes or sneakers. Maybe a pad and pencil for recording the information. The goal is to get fresh air and exercise. Getting together to socialize and share stories is always a great thing to do, especially with this great fall weather.
One of my favorite trees is the Green Leaf Japanese maple – what is yours? Enjoy!
This is paw paw season. The fruit is native to the US and grows wild in the eastern half of the country. It can be found along river banks and other areas in the wild. However, it is becoming more common. The paw paw fruit is being grown commercially and can be found in some famers markets. It has a tropical mango-like flavor and can be used in a variety of ways, from fruit smoothies, pies, ice cream to even beer..
The good news is that you can grow this fruit in your garden. The paw paw tree (Asimina triloba) is a small tree that prefers well-drained soil. It has large leaves and fruit and is considered an understory tree. It has few pests that bother the tree so it can be considered a low maintenance tree. It is best to buy container grown trees because the plant does not transplant well as a bare root methods.
This is a tree to grow in your yard. Because the fruit ripens quickly, it has a short shelf life. Growing the fruit in your yard makes it easy to harvest and eat when it ripens. The season is typically from Sept. to Oct. The paw paw fruit will definitely help create conversation and it should be a tree to consider adding to the garden.
Reading an article in the paper yesterday made me think about how we have been expanding our vegetable gardens and reducing the size of the lawn. The article talks about how residential developments are being planned around working farms. Well, how about re-thinking your yard to consider the whole area as a garden?!? Why limit the tomatoes and chives to the vegetable garden? Why not mix the vegetables and herbs in with the traditional shrub plantings. How about adding more fruit trees in with the other ornamental plantings. Pots, planters and raised beds are all opportunities for expanding our gardening talents and vegetable crop yield.
This is a great time to get started. Garden centers are having end of the season sales. Plant prices are reduced and there is still a good variety of plants to choose from. You can still plant vegetables and have a crop to harvest this fall. We just planted beans and spinach and they are starting to come up. This generates interest and definitely adds to the conversation.
There are other great ideas for thinking outside of the (garden) box in the Wall Street Journal article “An Apple Tree Grows in Suburbia” by Stephanie Simon
Spring is here and it is so good to be able to spend time outside, especially wandering around the garden to look at all of the plants emerging after those cold winter months. I had the opportunity to visit an Alzheimer’s garden, last week, which was just completed. It was great to be able to sit in the garden and see the Redbud tree and the shrubs and perennials blooming. What was extra special was watching the residents interact with the garden. One gentleman walked around the perimeter of the garden and identified all of the plants. He thought all of the flowering shrubs were hydrangeas. While, in reality, they were Fragrant Spice Viburnum shrubs – it really did not matter. He was pleased to tell the aide walking with him that he had personally planted all of the plants in “his” garden.
This and so many other stories validate why the garden is vitally important for elders. The garden is an essential way for people to maintain a connection with the world around them – especially those with memory impairments. The plants are a tool for eliciting conversations and retrieving memories of what a person did in their own garden. The garden is a place where elders can smell the flowers; watch the birds, and all of those everyday things that we all too often take for granted.
I would like to hear other stories about how elders with Dementia are enjoying the garden. Please tell me what is happening during spring in your Alzheimer’s garden at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the first day of spring, our thoughts turn to the garden and what we will be growing this year. Researchers at Texas A&M University suggest growing more fruit and vegetables. Over half of the older adults in the U.S. do not consume the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. The research study, “Growing Minds: Evaluating the Relationship between Gardening and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Older Adults”, shows that gardening can encourage elders to eat more of the good foods.
The study has shown that gardeners are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetables as compared to non-gardeners. In addition to improved eating habits, 80 percent of the older adults participating in the research study indicated that they feel better because of their gardening activities. Gardening programs have a positive effect for the health and quality of life for older adults.
To view an abstract of the research study, visit: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/4/711
According to the Audubon Society, there are approximately 48 million people who identify themselves as ‘birders’. There is even an App that is available for i-phones that can help you identify birds. This is all proof that we love nature and want to stay connected in many different ways.
The Audubon Society has been promoting a program to help people connect with nature. The Great Outdoors Initiative celebrates our nation’s spectacular landscapes and natural abundance.
“It’s not fattening. It can change your mood in a heartbeat. And it’s romantic. Taking nature personally is as American as freedom — and nature doesn’t belong to a party,” said David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon.
Visit the Audubon Society’s web site to learn more about the Great Outdoors Initiative and other bird related programs: http://birds.audubon.org/
Reports indicate that Vitamin D deficiency is under-recognized and under treated for elders. This partly due to the fact that older adults spend more time indoors and have inadequate intake of Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are one part of the solution; however, most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is produced when ultra violet rays from sunshine meet the skin and trigger Vitamin D synthesis. Studies suggest that Vitamin D deficiency is the cause of the ‘bone-wasting’ disease Osteoporosis. Elders complaining of unexplained pain, injuries from falls, gait disorders may all be a result of a lack of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is easily remedied if we simply create more opportunities for elders to spend time outdoors. This applies to elders living in all communities, including senior communities, assisted living facilities and Alzheimer’s residences. Creating Therapeutic Gardens, walking paths, community vegetable gardens and other outdoor garden areas will encourage elders to venture outdoors. Spending time in sunlight is vital to their health and well-being. By providing benches, people spend more time outside and socialize. It also helps to include activities that people would find in their neighborhoods such as putting greens, bocce and croquet courts.
It is important to remember that the season of the year, the time of day, smog, and skin melatonin are among the factors that affect Vitamin D synthesis. Cloud cover can reduce the suns potential energy by 50%. Shade reduces Vitamin D intake by 60%. Even though we may enjoy sitting next to a sunny window, the sun’s radiation does not penetrate glass. It is estimated that between 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week is helpful for Vitamin D production. And the sunlight is absorbed best when the face, arms and legs are exposed without sunscreen. We need to create stimulating outdoor gardens and outdoor environments that encourage elders to spend more time outdoors in the sunshine – starting this spring!