The New Year is full of vows that usually involve diet and exercise. Gardening is a great way to implement these two decisions while improving your mood, lowering your blood pressure, maintaining flexibility, burning calories and more.
Determine that you are growing your own vegetables and eating healthier in the New Year. Involve your family and friends in planning how you can incorporate gardening into your life.
Discover how to incorporate vegetables and herbs into your landscape. A vegetable garden is not the only option. Placing vegetables in flower beds, mixed edges, and container gardens can expand the planting area. Look for new compact and colorful vegetables that go well with small spaces, planters and ornamental gardens.
Make an inventory of the remaining seeds and make a list of those seeds and the plants to buy. The earlier you order, the more likely you are to get the products on the list.
Don’t wait for the start of a year of healthy gardening and eating habits. Start growing micro-greens in January. They are fast, simple and require no special equipment. In addition, recent research has shown that it contains many 25 times more nutrients than the leaves of a fully grown plant.
Organize a seed exchange with your family and friends in the winter. This is a great way to increase your plant budget and experiment with new seeds. Turn old seeds that are no longer viable into works of art with sheets of paper or small pieces of wood, glue and some creativity.
Start with vegetable, herb and flower seeds indoors in late winter and mid-spring. Check the seed package for timing and planting directions. Create a seed start table or mark the planting dates in your calendar to plant the seeds at the recommended time.
Observe the weather and follow the recommended planting dates when sowing seeds directly in the garden and moving seedlings outdoors. Use a homemade or DIY jacket, floating line cover and cold frame to jump start the season. They capture the heat 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 they appear during the season. These unwanted plants compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients and are the hosts of many diseases and insect pests. Removing weeds is also a great way to reduce stress while improving the health and beauty of garden beds.
Harvest flowers and enjoy summer bouquets and arrangements. Choose some extras to share with your friends. Research has shown that giving fresh flowers has immediate and long-lasting benefits.
Take vegetables regularly when they are on top for maximum productivity, flavor and nutritional value. Share the extra product with your family, friends, and the food insecure — many of whom are children — in your community. Contact your local food bank, food chamber, or Feeding America to donate fresh garden produce.
End your efforts with a garden party. Ask other gardeners to bring a meal that includes home-grown vegetables. Share your recipes, garden success stories, and start planning for the season ahead.
See my monthly gardening checklists for recommended timing for these and other gardening projects.
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 show. Myers is the columnist and co-editor of Birds & Blooms magazine. Its website is www.melindamyers.com.