The New Year is filled with intentions that usually involve dieting and exercise. Gardening is a great way to help make those two decisions while improving your mood, lowering blood pressure, maintaining flexibility, burning calories and more.
Decide to grow your own vegetables and eat healthier in the new year. Get your family and friends involved in planning ways gardening can be included in your life.
Explore ways to incorporate vegetables and herbs into your landscape. Vegetable gardener is not the only option. Putting vegetables in flower beds, 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.
Make a list of any seed residues and make a list of these seeds and any plants you need to buy. The earlier you order, the more likely you are to get the items on your list.
Do not wait to start your year with healthy gardening and eating habits. Start growing microgreens in January. They are fast, easy and do not require any special equipment. Plus, recent research has shown that many contain as much as 25 times more nutrients than the leaves of the mature plant.
Organize a seed exchange with family and friends in the winter. It’s a great way to expand 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 a little creativity.
Start vegetable, herb and flower seeds indoors in late winter to mid-spring. Check the seed package for timing and planting instructions. Create a seed seed chart or mark plant dates in your calendar to ensure seeds are 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 do-it-yourself bricks, floating row covers and cold frames to kick off the season. These capture the heat near the plants for an earlier start in the garden. They can also be used to prolong the end of the growing season.
Start removing weeds as soon as they appear during the season. These unwanted plants compete with desirable plants for water and nutrients, and many host diseases and 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 events. Choose a few extra things to share with friends. Research has found immediate and long-lasting benefits generated by the gift of fresh flowers.
Pick vegetables regularly when they are at their highest for maximum productivity, flavor and nutritional value. Share extra products with family, friends and foodies – many of whom are children – in your community. Contact your local food bank, pantry or Feeding America to donate fresh produce to the garden.
Finish your efforts with a garden party. Invite other gardeners to bring a dish to share that includes home-grown vegetables. Share recipes, garden success stories, and start planning for the upcoming season.
For the recommended timing to carry out these and other garden projects, check out my monthly garden checklists.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 garden 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 co-editor of Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is www.melindamyers.com.