With 2017 almost here, I have an idea for a New Year’s resolution that is healthy, provides exercise and is a fun outdoor activity for the entire family.
Vegetable gardening can be an excellent activity to try in this new year. For the beginner or experienced gardener, there is always something new to learn from the experience.
There is much to learn about science in the backyard garden. Children can experience where food comes from. They can discover the insect world, including discovering that some insects are actually beneficial. And hopefully, they will learn to care for the land along with learning a skill that can be shared with their children.
The experienced gardener can try something new.
Chinese cabbage is something that you might try. It’s 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 such as marigolds, nasturtiums or ornamental kale.
For whatever reason you decide to garden, now is the time to begin planning.
Here is how:Choose a sunny location close to a water source. A location near the house makes it easier to care for the garden and harvest the vegetables. Have your soil tested. Soil testing takes the guesswork out of determining the amount and kind of fertilizer to use. It also tells you if lime is needed and how much to apply. Your local University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension office can provide you information on soil testing. Choose vegetables that your family likes, use recommended varieties for North Florida and order early.
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. Many times, newer, more popular varieties are sold out if you wait to order. Many seed catalogs will provide ideas on what to plant, but always buy from a reputable dealer.
Much more on vegetable gardening is available from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county or from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_vegetable_gardening.
Larry Williams is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.