Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Gardening Benefits

As usual, thank God it’s Monday, once again. I personally look forward to all Mondays, as they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you! Therefore, happy Monday and happy June, too.






This week celebrates, among other things, National Gardening Week. Plus, Thursday is National Gardening Exercise Day. And, relatedly, June is, among other things, National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month and National Rose Month. There are so many benefits in gardening (whether it’s flowers or fruits and vegetables, or all of it).

Besides the nutritional and money-saving values of growing your own food, gardening is a very healthy exercise activity. There are so many aspects involved in the gardening process – planting, weeding, mulching, composting, watering, harvesting – you can tone your muscles and burn a lot of calories, as well.

Decades ago, when we lived in Algonac, Mom had a raised garden bed, about 8-ft square. I remember helping her plant strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. There were also perenials of rhubarb, apples, and pears. I remember helping her harvest all of it for her homemade pickles, jams, sauces, and desserts.

I think Mom picked up most of her gardening (and canning) skills from Dad’s mom, who always had wonderful tomato and rose gardens, herself; when she lived on French Road, in Detroit. I recall Mom always using old coffee grounds and grounded egg shells in her gardens and patio pots to help her tomato plants and roses flourish.

Like Mom, I always save my coffee grounds and eggshells (and the occasional banana peels) in an old, ground coffee container on my kitchen counter. As it fills up, I take it out back to mix into my compost pile for the flower and vegetable gardens.

I sometimes put it directly around the base of my plants – near but not touching the plants – and water it in. My roses especially love it. When the rose heads reach their potential, I trim them off and hang them upside down until they’re fully dried. I repurpose and recycle them (along with my homegrown, dried lavender) into potpourri.

I’ve written in several other blog posts, about how growing your own food can save money on groceries – especially if you don’t factor in the value of your time (which also has been on the rise) – but gardening is beneficial in many other ways, too. Most gardening requires some amount of physical care and continuous dedication of time, to providing such care.

When Mom started self-publishing her monthly newsletter, in 1974, she used to dedicate about a page to gardening tips and tricks, as she was an avid gardener, herself, when she had time. But, as her family business grew quickly, within a couple of years, she had very little time to spear for gardening. Here are some of her tips.


Gardening tips by Gloria Pitzer, as seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Homemaker’s Newsletter (Happy Newspaper Features, Algonac, MI; Vol. 1, No. 6; June 1974, p. 59)


‘A mixture of one part water, one part citrus flavored soda, and half a teaspoon of chlorine bleach for each quart of solution can help flowers stay fresh longer. The alkalinity of most tap water is neutralized by the citric acid and carbonation in the soft drink. The bleach and carbonation control bacteria that block water flow in the stems. The sugar and soda pop nourishes flowers.’

‘Calla lilies are more delicate in appearance than cannas. Plant in sun or in light shade, in pots or in the ground. In the north, lift Calais in the fall and store them in dry vermiculite [for the winter].’

‘Peas mature in early summer and don’t like midsummer heat. So, after they’ve finished, one can pull the vines or bushes, dig the space over, feed it, and plant a fall-crop vegetable like broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts. Or, if preferred, use the space for lettuce or beans. Brussels sprouts can often be harvested into December.’

‘Bone meal, high in phosphate and containing some nitrogen, will not burn and can be used on bulbs, dahlias, roses, and the like.’

It wasn’t long, before Mom was spending more time investigating the secrets of the food industry and less time gardening. Subsequently, she dropped the gardening section in her newsletter to make room for more copycat recipes and other food industry secrets..

After we moved to St. Clair, in 1977, Mom continued to, at least, have a few tomato plants in pots on the back patio every spring through fall. Like most other working couples, the convenience of buying products at the store became easier and more favorable than homegrown and homemade.

Except for most perennials, you can’t just drop some seeds and come back in a few months to reap the harvest. It’s not that easy. After tilling the soil and planting the seeds, gardens usually require a lot of daily, weekly, and monthly upkeep – such as fertilizing, mulching, watering, trimming, pulling weeds, and more – before you can harvest.

About the only kind of exercise regimen that I don’t mind doing, besides walking, is gardening; which is classified as a “moderate” exercise (like aerobics) because it works all of the major muscle groups – legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back, and abdomen – as you stretch, bend, lift, pull, push, etc. (which also builds strength).

Obviously, all the activities involved in gardening can burn a lot of calories. One hour of gardening and yard work can burn more than walking, at a moderate pace, for the same amount of time, as it works more muscle groups. An hour of gardening, depending on your size and the specific activities involved, can burn up to or over 300 calories.

According to, based on a 180-lb person, doing various gardening activities for 30 minutes, one can burn the following amount of calories:

  • Watering plants, burns 61 calories.
  • Planting seedlings, burns 162 calories.
  • Weeding, pruning or trimming shrubs (manually), burns 142 calories.
  • Composting, digging, spading, or tilling, burns 250 or more calories.

[NOTE: Lighter people usually burn less calories, while heavier people burn more.]

There’s also a great calorie-burning chart at, where I found that weeding and cultivating my flower garden this past weekend burned about 393 calories per hour for someone my size. I also spent a few hours in my vegetable garden, getting most of my potted seedlings transplanted into my raised beds before it rained.

Furthermore, our bodies get a lot of essential Vitamin D, while doing all of those activities outside (even when it’s cloudy), as the sun is the best source for Vitamin D and our bodies can absorb it like sponges. It doesn’t stop there – gardening also contributes to many important life skills, such as faith, patience, and commitment; even cooking.’s infographic, 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening, explains how gardening can also strengthen our immune systems, relieve stress, elevate feelings of happiness, provide a physical workout, stimulate the brain, and even encourage a healthier diet. Check it out.

Gardening is also known to improve heart and lung health and help prevent obesity. Additionally, it lowers the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Plus, it stimulates serotonin production, in the brain; regulating mood and anxiety. There’s growing research on all the positive benefits of gardening – mentally, emotionally, and physically.


As seen in…

Gloria Pitzer’s Secret Recipes Newsletter (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; August 2000, Issue 215, p. 6)


MY OWN INSPIRATION to become a better cook than I was came originally from the two most important influences in my young life, my mother and my mother-in-law. From my mom I learned the elegant, artistic presentation of even the most humble leftovers and the joy of making any meal an occasion rather than a ritual.

From my mother-in-law, I learned (while we were living with Paul’s parents), the art of practical food preparations, preserving and canning techniques not always found in the popular cookbooks… How to make your own ingredients when you were out of something.

And so, by combining the lessons learned, from both women, I became an accomplished cook (and much against my better judgement)!

Since then, inspiration has come to me from various other sources, including the big, boring, generic cookbooks. These recipes are always a challenge to try and “Pitzerize”, condensing the lengthy number of ingredients into only a few and arrive at a similar result.

It’s something you will become accustomed to doing once you have used Secret RecipesTM for a while. Whatever requires, for instance, tomato sauce, vinegar, and a little sugar makes use of ketchup, instead – a good replacement of 3 ingredients.

Likewise, others will occur to you as you continue to cook. If inspiration doesn’t come to you immediately, give it time and, with practice, I promise it will.


Since grocery prices continue to rise, steming mostly from the pandemic’s supply chain interuptions, plus some corporate greed; many people have decided to hone their homesteading skills, by growing at least some of their own food.

There are so many grocery products you can make at home – from soap to soup mix. Mom featured many of these kind of things in her self-published cookbook, The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Gloria Pitzer – Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; August 1980)] – one of my personal favorites.

In the past four years, more people than ever before have started raising chickens, going fishing, and hunting to supplement the rising costs of eggs and meat. You could say homesteading has found a rejuvenation with new generations.

Inflation and the high costs of food is not a new subject. Mom was writing about price increases and the food crisis in her syndicated column, No Laugh ‘N’ Matter, 50 years ago, in the 1970s. I’ll share some of those columns next week.


In honor of June, being National Candy Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Life Slivers” (candy); as seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 231). [A revised reprint of Gloria Pitzer’s Better Cookery Cookbook (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; May 1983, 3rd Edition)].

As always, I’m asking only for proper credit if you care to reshare it.



P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…


June observes, among other things… National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, and National Turkey Lovers Month, among other things.

Today is also… National Repeat Day, National Egg Day, and National Chocolate Macaroons Day. Plus, (for 2024) it’s also… National Leave The Office Early Day – since its normal date (the 2nd) fell on a weekend, it’s being observed on the nearest business day.

Tomorrow is… National Cheese Day, National Cognac Day, and National Hug Your Cat Day.

Wednesday, June 5th, is… National Gingerbread Day and National Veggie Burger Day.

Thursday, June 6th, is… National Applesauce Cake Day.

June 7th, is… National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, National VCR Day, and National Oklahoma Day. Plus, as the first Friday in June (for 2024), it’s also… National Doughnut Day.

June 8th, is… National Best Friends Day. Plus, as the second Saturday in June (for 2024), it’s also… National Rosé Day.

June 9th, is… National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day. Plus, as the second Sunday in June (for 2024), it’s also… National Children’s Day… AND through Father’s Day (which is always the 3rd Sunday in June), it’s the start of… Men’s Health Week (9th-15th for 2024).

Additionally, as the start of the second week in June, it’s also… National Little League Week (9th-15th for 2024). Moreover, as the start of the week of National Flag Day (always June 14th), it’s also… National Flag Week (for 2024). Likewise, it’s also the start of Big Boy’s Birthday Week (for 2024) as Big Boy’s birthday is June 15th#NationalBigBoyDay.


…23 down, 29 to go!

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