Growing heart healthy greens

By Conelia Dixon - Contributing columnist

February is Heart Health Month. What does this have to do with the People’s Garden at Agape? Well, first of all, we have a lot of love in our hearts this month: the beginning of the growing season is right around the corner, the construction inside our learning center building is progressing, and the enthusiasm in the community for the potential of our small but mighty plot of land is growing. Our hearts are brimming with gratitude.

The second People’s Garden tie-in to Heart Health Month is the cardiovascular benefit of gardening. According to a study published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, just 10 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity (gardening!) per week can lower a person’s risk of death from a stroke or heart attack by 12 percent. Raking, digging, and dragging around a watering can will provide a great light cardiovascular workout that has lasting benefits.

Thirdly, we grow a cornucopia of heart-healthy vegetables at the People’s Garden. When we start sowing our first seeds of the year next month, we will definitely be including some kale, Swiss chard, and other cold hardy leafy greens. Not only are they delicious, they are extremely good for you and your heart. Research shows that a diet that contains a variety of leafy greens not only reduces people’s risk of heart disease and certain cancers, it also lowers the risk for diabetes, macular degeneration, and memory loss. In fact, a CDC study calculating fruit and vegetable nutrient density found that 17 of the top 20 nutrient dense produce items were … you guessed it … types of leafy greens!

Want some of this love? Come help us plant our leafy greens and peas during our first community work day of 2020 on Sunday, March 22, from 3 to 5 p.m. Gloves and gardening tools will be provided, and no prior gardening experience is needed. Just bring your enthusiasm. For those unfamiliar with our location, we are at the corner of Court and Brooklyn in Sidney. Enter the parking lot off Court and head straight back to the garden.

If you are unable to help out in March but are still intrigued by the amazing powers of leafy greens, we are going to start holding classes this year about different crops that we grow in the garden. These classes will take place in our learning building and begin in April. April’s class? You guessed, again! Leafy greens! So, if you don’t know the difference between turnip greens and collards, or couldn’t pick arugula out of a produce line up, this class will be for you. We will discuss both how to grow them and their various uses. Look for next month’s column for the time and date of this class, along with class themes for the coming months.

Also on tap for this summer is an open house with food, music and art. Again, check our monthly column for more about this later in the spring. We hope that one or more of these activities inspire you to stop by the garden for a visit. You are welcome any time. Or, if you would like more information, please contact Conelia Dixon at 937-726-9525 or visit the People’s Garden Facebook page.

By Conelia Dixon

Contributing columnist

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.