Gardening and Aging


IMG_2982Wow, that’s a lotta candles

I turned 50 this week and feel pretty great about it.  The wonderful thing about 50, as opposed to 35 or 43 or 45, is that you are no longer mourning your lost youth.  It is gone, baby, so you might as well just admit it and enjoy the stage you are at.

Of course, I have been completely shaped at 50 by two decades of furious work with my shovel, and thank God for it!  Here are the ten best things about aging as a gardener:

  1. No pressure to be pretty.  My lilies and my children are beautiful, so anybody who thinks all women over 33 should be spending lots of time in hair salons can look at them instead.
  2. I feel fantastic.  Clearly, gardening is the best exercise program in the world.  I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was 18 or 30, including run six miles with ease and joy and toss around cases of wine as if they were empty.  It’s important for one’s morale, while one is wrinkling and losing one’s waistline, to feel nonetheless as if one is getting fitter every day!
  3. I probably won’t get osteoporosis, which happens to run in my small-boned Irish family.
  4. I probably won’t get an allergic disease, and it’s likely that nothing serious will bother me on the auto-immune front, either.
  5. I probably won’t get seriously depressed.  Though if late blight destroys all my tomatoes again this August, I’m not promising that I won’t become murderously enraged.
  6. I will get lots of Vitamin D and always be aglow from the sun.
  7. I will not lose my appetite for life until I lose my eagerness for spring, and that is never gonna happen.
  8. I will never, ever be bored.  The Seed Saver’s Exchange Yearbook lists 13,000 different vegetable varieties. Food writer Harold McGee says that of an estimated 300,000 edible plant species, we only cultivate 2,000. The West may be won, but the vegetable garden is still an endless frontier.
  9. I will always have a task so absorbing that all mundane annoyances disappear.
  10. I will always have a community, too–the company of other gardeners, who are clearly the wisest and most wonderful people in the world.


  1. Great photo and wonderful post. May the Birthday Bird of Katroo deposit the appropriate amounts of guano on your garden!

  2. Happy b-day to a fellow march baby. Ditto on all your items. I have way more upper body strength then when a young whipper snapper. Not on the running 6 miles. Gardening has not helped that.

  3. Happy Birthday! I turned 60 this week – so I know where you’re at – and I’ll be gardening until I can’t lift a trowel.

  4. Great photo and happy birthday! I suspect you will be able to give this post a reprise when you hit 70 which is where I will be this summer – and I concur on every point – except I come from sturdy peasant stock promising no osteoporosis later down the line. When we moved to our house our 83 year old neighbor was still tending a garden – and she was dying of cancer. She said she just lay down in the path when she was weeding and napped until she was ready to continue.

  5. A very Happy Birthday to you! You look fantastic, I have no idea what you are talking about. It is amazing about the running and fitness aspects, and losing my midsection. I am doing a 1/2 marathon in May (I have never been an athlete) and I feel great, but where oh where did my waist go? Very disturbing.

  6. Michele, have a glorious birthday. I love what you wrote…I will not lose my appetite for life until I lose my eagerness for spring, and that is never gonna happen.

    That completely describes the joy I felt when I went in the basement yesterday and saw my pepper seeds sprouting.

  7. Happy b-day and gardening, but I’ll just go ahead and enjoy my 33 thank ya very much, along with trying to reclaim my youth stubbornly despite your sage advice and example.

  8. Happy Birthday! And you DO look wonderful! And from this 72 year old (well, full disclosure — 73 in May), gardening does help. The waistline went quite a while ago, but I can still use a shovel, haul bags of chickenpoop, and weed, with the aid of a kneeling stool so that I can get up and not be left in the garden all night till someone finds me.

  9. Happy 50th Miss Chele. Great dress. I suppose one could look on the bright side after another 50th birthday myself last week. It is the wrinkles and thin, easily pricked skin from excess vitamin D manufacture I have the most trouble accepting with grace.

  10. Yes, welcome Michele. I’m a big believer in genetics and they must be a big part of what makes you so fabulous–as well as gardening.

  11. Happy Gardening seems more appropriate than Happy Birthday. I am older than you but as a gardener I feel ageless! There has never been a year yet that I do not look forward to the next. I actually feel sorry for people who do not garden because they are excluded from the wonderful world of yearly expectations.

  12. Wonderful photograph, Michele, and your list is great.
    I hit 70 this summer so I appreciate your list, specially the one about not having to be pretty anymore, but now you’ll be called beautiful, because, being strong from gardening, and independent, you will be freer to be yourself, and will have become more beautiful.
    And you’re hair is natural! How great is that???
    Thanks for a fine message.

  13. Happy Birthday,with that Attitude you will be around to garden and enjoy life for a long,long time.I will be 60 next month and ditto to everything you said.

  14. Great! And Happy Birthday! You look great! I’m closing in on 60…and certainly agree with everything you posted above! Gardening keeps you young…or at least healthy!

    By the way…my peas went in yesterday! It’s definitely Spring! Bloodroot and Hepatica bloomed yesterday:)

  15. Happy Birthday!! May your tomatoes grow profusely and free of blight this year. The women in my family who lived long happy lives were all gardeners, so there you go. Nary a spot of osteoporosis in the bunch either.

  16. Love your blog entry – Hurray for 50 and for the beauty of nature. Excellent reflections – Here’s to a glorious 2nd half:) deb

  17. You shouldn’t have to take care of my elderly parents.
    They got to retire young and have some fun in Mexico and Haiwaii.
    At 50 in America it’s fun!
    If you make it to seventy you can still lay back in the sun and feel good.

  18. Happy belated! I turn 45 in June, so 50 will be here before I know it! Wonderful list and affirmation for a garden-centered life!

  19. Hey, middle age begins at 65 (or older)! No way, at 57 am I old and I credit gardening — and good genes — for that. But I do wish my knees would stop complaining when I get up from weeding.

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