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Media Contacts

Stori Snyder
Hilltop Garden and Nature Center

Michelle Miller
Department of Kinesiology

Annie Eakin
Division of Recreational Sports

Tracy James
IU Media Relations

Living Well

Health and wellness tips from Indiana University

Living Well for May discusses the following topics:

Gardening solutions: When space or motivation is in short supply
Vacations and fitness: A break vs. sabotage
Vacations and fitness: Keep the body movin'

HIlltop, Planting

Hilltop Garden and Nature Center assistant director Stori Snyder prepares a pot of flowers.

Print-Quality Photo

Container gardening can let green thumbs blossom when space or motivation is limited. Cherry tomatoes draped from hanging baskets, herbs, morning glories and vegetables can spice up those flower pots. Stori Snyder, assistant director of the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington, offers some tips on the many ways container gardens can grow. "Even if you do have space for a garden, there's always the possibility of adding a few more pots," Snyder said.

  • Preparing the containers: Containers need holes at the bottom for drainage and some rocks for the plant roots to wrap around. "The roots don't want to have wet feet, so to speak," Snyder said. Containers should be at least one size larger than the purchased pot size.
  • Feeding the soil: More plants can be grown in a small space if the soil has been enriched with manure, compost or humus. Gardeners can buy kits to test the composition of their soil to see if it needs more nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium, which are important nutrients for plants. Snyder said it's practically "a given" that soil will need compost or manure after subsequent plantings because plants always remove nitrogen from dirt. One way to improve the soil is to add a scoop of compost in a hole when burying a plant. Feed the plants again at least once during the summer with a sprinkling of compost or compost tea, where a compost powder is mixed with water.
  • Buying local: Gardeners should consider planting native varieties because they handle a region's climate better. Local nurseries and county extension services can offer guidance. Some herbs, such as mints, sage and thyme, are hardier than others and grow back in the spring. "Native varieties won't be as stressed and will require a little less maintenance," Snyder said.
  • Juicy tomatoes: A tomato plant can grow well in a 5-gallon bucket. They come in many varieties, although compact varieties grow better in containers and require less staking. Snyder said cherry and pear tomatoes look delightful in hanging baskets. Tomatoes mature at different rates, so gardeners might want to select varieties that ripen at different times or varieties that are indeterminate, which means they ripen repeatedly until it becomes too cold.
  • Vegetables: Carrots and radishes grow quickly. Snyder said gardeners should consider researching "companion plants," which grow well together because one plant provides the soil with a nutrient the other plant needs and vice versa. Carrots and tomatoes are companion plants, Snyder said, as are roses and garlic. Basil and tomatoes are a dynamic duo with considerable aesthetic appeal. Snyder noted that "they smell fantastic" and the variety of colors is interesting -- yellow tomatoes and purple basil, for example.
  • Now you're cooking: Herbs are good for container gardening because compact herbs, such as rosemary, lavender and thyme, can grow in small spaces. Sage needs a lot of space and should be in a container by itself. Mints, including lemon balm, are invasive and should be planted in the ground or in their own container.
  • Caring for flower bulbs: Bulbs planted in containers should be brought inside after the green leaves die back and the nutrients are stored in the bulb. They should be dried and stored in a cool place until next spring. Spring-blooming bulbs planted in yards should be planted in the fall, while bulbs that bloom in the summer can be planted in the spring.
  • Vines, clematis and morning glories make interesting container plantings and require trellises.
  • Water frequently: The plants will need to be watered daily during much of the summer. Watering during the middle of the day should be avoided, but whether watering in the morning or evening is better is much debated. Watering in the evening will avoid scorching the leaves, while watering in the morning will avoid potential growth of unwanted fungus on damp leaves, said Snyder, who opts for morning waterings. Top

Snyder can be reached at 812-855-8808 and

Taking a vacation from fitness. A week or two away from the gym won't have a major impact on your fitness level, but vacation-related weight gain and waning motivation can make returning to a workout routine more difficult, said Michelle Miller, clinical professor in the Department of Kinesiology in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "Physiologically, you can stop exercising for up to about 10 days and you should still be able to pick up where you left off. But what actually happens is that people come back from being on a trip and don't want vacation to be over. The real hurdle is not that you've lost your fitness base but that you don't want to get back to reality." In addition to the mental challenge of resuming a routine, bringing home a few extra pounds can slow you down, Miller said. "I hear from people who come back from cruises that they gained five pounds in a week." Sudden weight gain can derail workouts by causing people to feel discouraged as well as physically uncomfortable, she said. Miller advises planning ahead to give your fitness commitment more staying power than your tan. "Be sure your motivation goes beyond wanting to look good on the beach, or you won't have a reason to resume your workouts. Before your trip, decide and prioritize what you will need to do to transition back to your normal routine. Above all, recognize that vacation is vacation and at some point it has to end." Top

Miller can be reached at 812-855-8167 and

Move that body! While vacations are meant to be relaxing, there are times when they can border on lethargic. Hours of lying in the sun, sitting in restaurants and sleeping late hardly qualify as aerobic activity. A few small changes while on the road, however, can help get the body moving and burn some of those extra calories that inevitably will be consumed. Annie Eakin, assistant director of aquatics for Indiana University Bloomington's Division of Recreational Sports, says that every little effort helps.

  • "Instead of lying by the pool, get in it and move around. Aqua jogging is an easy activity that will exercise nearly the entire body and get your heart rate up," Eakin said. Lap swimmers can check out Web sites such as to see if any lap pools are near their vacation locale.
  • Activities such as snorkeling, skiing or taking the kids somewhere that requires walking, like the zoo or a theme park, can be fun and calorie-burners.
  • For indoor workouts, book a room in a hotel that has an exercise room -- most do. Most gyms throughout the country offer day passes. The YMCA, which is an international workout facility, sells day passes for $8-10, and it can be found in almost every city in America.

Eakin says it is essential to keep your body active, even for a short time each day, because the extra movement will help keep travelers energized. "Even the smallest amount of activity can boost your metabolism and energy level," she said. Top

Eakin can be reached at 812-855-9798 or

For further assistance with these tips, contact Tracy James, 812-855-0084 and, or Elisabeth Andrews, 812-856-3717 and

EDITORS: This monthly tip sheet is based on Indiana University faculty research, teaching and service. "Living Well Through Healthy Lifestyles" is the guiding philosophy of IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In keeping with that philosophy, this tip sheet offers information related to both physical and mental well-being. Faculty in other IU schools and departments also contribute their expertise in this area.