[Monday] is the beginning of a new year. And I have an idea for a New Year’s resolution you might want to try. It provides outdoor exercise, gives you a sense of accomplishment, it is fun for the whole family and it might save you a little money.
Vegetable gardening can be an excellent activity to try in 2018. For the beginner who doesn’t know the difference between turnips and tulips or for the gardener who grows [everything from] asparagus to zucchini, there’s always something new to learn from the experience.
For the young gardener, there are valuable lessons. Children can learn that what is sown will be reaped. They can learn about competition and that not all benefits from work come in the form of money. They can learn about sharing and teamwork. They also may learn the feeling of accomplishment and learn to deal with disappointment.
There is much to learn about science in the backyard garden. A child can experience first-hand where food comes from. They can discover the world of insects and find out that some insects are beneficial. And hopefully they will learn to care for the environment along with learning a skill that can be shared with their children.
For the experienced gardener who is growing tired of gardening, try something new.
Chinese cabbage is something that you should try. It is easy to grow and tastes delicious raw or cooked. You could try various herbs in the garden such as lemon-balm, dill or chocolate mint. Sometimes color in the garden will help offer a change. Adding color to the garden is easy with annuals like marigolds, nasturtiums or ornamental kale.
For whatever reason you decide to garden, now is the time to begin planning.
First, choose a sunny location close to a water source. A location near the house will make it easier to care for the garden and harvest the vegetables.
Second, have your soil tested. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of determining the amount and kind of fertilizer and lime to use, if needed. Your local Extension office can provide you information on soil testing.
Choose vegetables that your family likes, use recommended varieties for North Florida and order early. This University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension site can help: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_vegetable_gardening
January is an excellent time to order seeds for your garden. By ordering early, there should be no delay in getting your seeds for spring planting.
If your New Year’s resolution is to get more exercise, eat healthier foods, spend more time with the family or to spend more time outdoors, try vegetable gardening.
Larry Williams is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.