Help Decide the Future of Aging. Join the White House’s Live Stream Tomorrow From Seattle. Learn more

Introducing RealPad

The tablet with free 24/7 customer support. Learn More

Celebrate Black Life, History, and Culture!



You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation



Renew for 3 and attend Life at 50+ for free



Life at 50+ - Discover. Engage. Enjoy.





Life at 50+ - Register for the Digital Experience



Happy African American couple







AARP Auto Buying Program



AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy






Military and Veterans Discount




New Book

Dating After 50: How to get back in the game

Dating After 50 For Dummies

Contests and

AARP’s Superstar
2015 Contest

Sing for a chance to win $5,000! Enter AARP’s Superstar 2015 Contest!
See official rules


Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.


Home & Community Webinars

Family & Caregiving Webinars

Popular Articles



AARP Games - Play Now!

Poll: Are You a Real Techie?

Homegrown Heritage

Adding outdoor elements reminiscent of your homeland can reconnect you to your ethnic roots

En español | Like her Spanish ancestors, Loretta Fresquez, 61, and her husband tend a farm in northern New Mexico. Not only does gardening connect her to her ancestors, who arrived from Mexico in the 1600s, it also revives childhood memories. In her father’s orchard, Fresquez says, “When the cherries started just taking on a little bit of tint of red, we’d be yanking them off the tree.”

See also: 10 Tips for Photographing Your Garden.

lush garden

Adding outdoor elements reminiscent of your homeland can reconnect you to your ethnic roots. — Photo by: Tim Street-Porter/Getty Images

Less sweet are her husband’s early memories of gardening. “When I was growing up, it was just a survival thing,” says David Fresquez, 66, who remembers having to sell wild asparagus and other plants as his father struggled to put five children through Catholic school. Only when he neared retirement, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, did his thoughts wander to his own garden. “I like to just grow things,” he says. “I like nature by itself, just being out there and enjoying the fresh air. It makes me just feel real happy inside.”

Whether yours is a farm of many acres or a small concrete square, you can turn it into a haven that makes you happy. And digging up your emotional connection to the land can lead you down the perfect garden path.

The Lay of the Land

Get to know your landscape by sketching it out, suggests Andres Mejides, who teaches organic gardening at Miami Dade College in South Florida. “I have students bring me a drawing of their property and show me where different structures are, like the house itself, walls, and existing trees, so that we can mix tropical fruit trees with vegetables they’re interested in, consider where the sun’s going to be [strongest], and things like that.”

Then list the elements you have available. Is the yard made mostly of brick or other patio material but has at least two borders that could become sheltering walls? If so, the inviting charm of a hacienda-style courtyard with potted plants, rustic wooden tables, and iron candelabra might be a better fit.

With a sketch in hand and knowledge of how the sun crosses your land, you can note areas that remain in the shadows and sheltered from wind and rain, and places where plants might be exposed to extreme temperatures. Once you have the lay of the land, you can dig deeper and consider soil type and moisture retention, perhaps seeking input from a local gardening center.

Next: Spice up your garden.>>

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefit Swipe Save Discount

Members can find current offer from Family Dollar at

amazon membership benefits aarp Woman sitting on sofa using digital tablet

Members save 10% on Amazon Kindle e-readers and the Kindle Fire HDX tablet.

Member Benefits Discounts Angie's List

Members can save 25% to 45% on their Angie's List membership.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.