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Healthy Eating Starts in Your Summer Garden

Man watering garden.

Gardening is a great way for the entire family to spend time together and eat heathier. There's something fulfilling and rewarding about harvesting your own vegetables and sharing them at the dinner table with friends and family. Experts at Atrium Health Navicent say now is the time to start planning your fall garden.

July is a great time to prepare the soil for fall crops, clean up rows of harvested crops and apply a layer of mulch to conserve water and prevent weeds. Throughout the summer months, water the garden deeply and less often — just enough to prevent drought stress.

If fall gardening is on your mind, take time to consider what you’d like to grow, and remember to start plants for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale and onions in a half-shaded area during August.

“Gardening is a value dense activity that gives more than it takes. Literally, what one sows in buckets they reap in wagons. This activity provides, exercise, social interaction, healthy foods, time in the sun, and so much more,” said Dr. Monique Davis-Smith, Atrium Health Navicent’s Family Medicine Residency Program director and a primary care physician at Atrium Health Navicent Primary Care West Macon.

Gardening is an active hobby that can be beneficial for everyone. Residents at Carlyle Place, a Life-Plan Community of Atrium Health Navicent, take pride in maintaining a garden and enjoying the harvest, especially fresh tomato sandwiches.

The garden has been going strong since 2001, and Tommy Goings oversees it with the help of other residents. Last fall, Goings and other residents built 20 raised beds for more than a dozen gardeners who are growing potatoes, okra, tomatoes, bell peppers and more.

“One of our favorite things is Georgia-grown tomatoes right out of the garden. It’s the tomato sandwiches. That's what you wait for every year,” Goings said. “I’ve had a garden all my life and it’s become one of my favorite parts of the day. You see something come to life that you’ve planted, and it’s great therapy and wonderful exercise.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gardening can help individuals stay active, and active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.

Although gardening is great exercise, it’s important to keep safety in mind:

  • Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.

  • Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, sun shades and sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 30 or higher.

  • Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritations, cuts and certain contaminants.

  • Keep harmful chemicals, tools and equipment out of children's reach.

  • Bend with your knees and not your back.

  • Before you start gardening, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date and ask your doctor if you need any other vaccinations.

  • Be mindful of the humidity.

  • Take breaks often and stop working if you experience breathlessness or muscle soreness.

  • Pay attention to signs of heat-related illness, including high body temperature, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion or unconsciousness.

To learn more about the benefits of healthy eating, ask your primary care physician. For help finding a doctor, visit and click “Find A Doctor.”

For additional information about Carlyle Place, or to request a tour, call 478-405-4500.


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