In the Garden:
Lower South
January, 2009
Regional Report

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A vegetable garden provides enjoyment, exercise, and lots of produce for a healthy diet.

Turning Over a New Leaf in 2009

I know New Year's resolutions are rather passe, but I was reflecting on the arrival of another gardening year and pondering what I would like to do differently in my garden this year. The thought occurred to me that we all could probably use a few changes or new ways of doing things to improve our gardening experience if not our lives in general. So here are a few thoughts for gardeners entering the wonderful new gardening season ahead.

Eat healthy. Whether you grow it yourself or purchase it from a local farm stand or grocer, it makes sense to eat healthy. Our American diets contribute to numerous chronic health issues that are largely preventable by simply making some changes in how we choose, prepare, and consume our food. A good start is to seek out some local growers who offer produce in your area. Why not try a small change or two in your diet this year for a healthier, happier, longer life?

Grow a vegetable garden. Many people tend landscapes and grow a few flowers but don't grow vegetables other than maybe a tomato plant or two. Increases in food costs and an increased awareness of how our diets contribute to good health make this a great time to try your hand at growing some vegetables in 2009. It is not that difficult and can be very rewarding too.

Plant a tree. There is no time like the present to plant a tree. Your effort will provide beauty and shade for years to come while enhancing the value of the property. If you don't need a tree in your yard then consider getting involved with a local group to plant trees in a city park, school yard, or some other public place. Always choose well adapted, long-lived species. Make plans for how the trees will be watered the first critical summer. A three- or four-foot-diameter circular berm of soil around the base to aid in watering during the first year is a good start.

Recycle your green wastes. Every tree leaf, grass blade, or vegetable kitchen scrap contains nutrients that will benefit your soil and growing plants. Leaves also make a great surface mulch to deter weeds and moderate soil temperatures. Even small branches can be chopped up for pathway materials or mulch. How about a new effort to return all the organic materials you can to the soil in 2009 for your garden's sake?

Get more from every drop of water. Many areas faced serious droughts in recent years. Water is projected to be in short supply in the future as urban populations continue to expand without a corresponding increase in water supplies. There has never been a better time to change the way we water than now. Drip irrigation is a great start. It puts water where the plants need it and reduces evaporative losses. Water smarter in 2009 by providing a deep soaking on an infrequent basis rather than frequent, shallow wetting of the soil.

Increase beneficial insect populations. There are lots of great insects out there in the garden helping you keep pests at bay. Most gardeners can name very few beneficial insects or know what plants attract them or what pests they eat. This year I suggest you resolve to learn about at least 3 new beneficial insects and then establish some plants and/or change some gardening practices to promote their increase in your garden and landscape.

Grow your gardening knowledge. There is so much to learn about gardening. Experience is the best teacher but books, magazines, Web sites, lectures, and classes offer a world of opportunity. Gardening seminars or courses are most likely available in your area that would increase your horticultural savvy and inspire you as well. Why not resolve to pick one type of plant you want to learn more about (orchids, agaves, flowering vines, tomatoes, ginger, culinary herbs) or one type of gardening (water gardens, butterfly gardens, container gardening, organic gardening) and learn all you can about it in 2009?

Try something new. There is always something new to try in gardening. New techniques. New plants. New landscape designs. New tools and technologies. Pick something new from each of these groups and give it a try this year. Visit with other gardeners about what they've tried in the past few years that has been a success.

Give gardening to someone. You already have gardening knowledge and experience that someone else can use. Teaching a child about gardening is a great way to share the love of gardening in a way that will have benefits for years to come. There are programs in many schools that can use volunteers. Junior Master Gardener programs are also expanding across the country. Another way to give gardening is to give plants, perhaps ones that you have started from cuttings, to friends and family. An older person that is unable to get out and garden may still enjoy having a new rose bush planted in their yard and will certainly appreciate the time you spend getting it established followed by a visit over a cup of tea! Flowering shrubs and trees continue to give every year when the new blooms appear.


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