Tuesday was the first day of . As summer draws to a close, my garden harvest is at its peak. I am harvesting bushels of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, eggplant and giving thanks for the food as well as the other health benefits I receive from tending my garden.

Saturday is the first annual Illinois Valley Farm and Garden Festival in Cave Junction, Oregon near where I live. I will be giving a talk on the health benefits of . I am also looking forward to entering my kim chi and sour fermented pickles in the food contest. This will be a fun way to welcome fall and celebrate the abundant harvest with my community.

Health benefits of gardening go well beyond the fresh we grow, yet is worth pointing out that studies show vitamin levels decrease with length of time between harvesting and consuming produce, so the fresher the better. We also are often out in the sun working, thus getting ample amounts of vitamin D. The exercise involved in gardening can be aerobic at times and is almost always weight bearing, thus keeping hearts and bones healthy. Gardening is mood elevating and reduces stress. We are always learning new things about insects, nutrition, soil science and more while gardening, thus keeping our brains active and preventing cognitive decline. The in the garden are mostly medicinal plants, which can be used for medicine when needed. Lastly, gardening connects us with nature and helps us better adjust to the changing seasons, which can help prevent seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu this time of year.

If you didn’t grow a garden this year, consider planning for a garden next spring. Now is the time to prepare a plot in your yard for next year or start looking for a community garden plot to use next year. Visit a farmers’ market, harvest festival or pumpkin patch this fall and celebrate the abundance of nature!

Margaret Philhower, ND