By Melinda Myers
The New Year is filled with resolutions that usually involve dieting and exercise. Gardening is a great way to help accomplish these two resolutions, while also improving your mood, reducing blood pressure, maintaining flexibility, burning calories and much more.
Resolve to grow your own vegetables and eat healthier in the New Year. Get your family and friends involved in planning ways to include gardening into your lives.
Explore ways to incorporate vegetables and herbs into your landscape. Vegetable gardens are not the only option. Tucking vegetables into flowerbeds, mixed borders and container gardens can expand your planting space. Look for new compact and colorful vegetable varieties that fit nicely into small spaces, planters, and ornamental gardens.
Take an inventory of any leftover seeds and make a list of those seeds and any plants you need to purchase. The earlier you order, the more likely you are to obtain the items on your list.
Don’t wait to start your year of healthful gardening and eating habits. Start by growing microgreens in January. They are quick, easy and require no special equipment. Plus, recent research found that many contain as much as 25 times more nutrients than the leaves of the full-grown plant.
Organize a seed swap with family and friends in winter. It is a great way to extend your plant budget and experiment with new seeds. Turn old seeds that are no longer viable into artwork with sheets of paper or small pieces of wood, glue, and some creativity.
Start vegetable, herb, and flower seeds indoors in late winter through mid spring. Check the seed packet for timing and planting directions. Create a seed starting chart or mark planting dates on your calendar to ensure seeds get planted at the recommended time.
Monitor the weather and follow the recommended planting dates for sowing seeds directly in the garden and moving seedlings outdoors. Use homemade or DIY cloches, floating row covers and cold frames to jump start the season. These capture warmth near the plants for an earlier start in the garden. They can also be used to extend the end of the growing season.
Start removing weeds as soon they appear throughout the season. These unwanted plants compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients, and many are host to disease and insect pests. Pulling weeds is also a great way to reduce stress while improving the health and beauty of your garden beds.
Harvest flowers to enjoy in summer bouquets and arrangements. Pick a few extras to share with friends. Research has found immediate and long-lasting benefits generated from the gift of fresh flowers.
Pick vegetables regularly when they are at their peak for maximum productivity, flavor, and nutritional value. Share extra produce with family, friends, and the food insecure – many of which are children – in your community. Contact your local food bank, food pantry or Feeding America to donate garden fresh produce.
Cap off your efforts with a garden party. Invite fellow gardeners to bring a dish to share that incorporates homegrown vegetables. Share recipes, garden success stories, and begin planning for the season ahead.
For the recommended timing to do these and other gardening projects, check my monthly gardening checklists.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her web site is www.melindamyers.com.