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Gardening New Year’s Resolutions
Gardening is good exercise, results in relatively short-term gratification, can add to the value of our properties and addresses the innate need most people have to be involved some way with nature. The world is an uncertain place. Many of us are looking for solace close to home. The good news is that gardening fits the needs of being a way to retreat or regroup but it also can be much more. Gardening can be a retreat but it can also be the basis of a new offensive to make sense of our lives and contribute to an improvement of the world. Here are some New Year’s Resolutions for gardeners to consider:
o I will schedule myself to work in the garden or landscape on a regular basis because it is excellent exercise. You expend about 50 calories per fifteen minutes for vigorous gardening such as hoeing, raking, pushing a hand mower, spreading mulch and digging. If you credit the gardening its due value as exercise, you are more likely to do it. Think of the returns listed in the first paragraph and make a resolution to work in the garden or the landscape one half hour to one hour per day.
o I will contribute to the environmental quality of my neighborhood by adopting one cultural practice that is less environmentally stressful than one of my current practices. An obvious one would be to use a manual or electric mower rather than a gas-powered mower. An environmentally friendly practice I like, is to use all the organic material produced in the yard, rather than sending recyclable material in plastic bags to fill valuable landfill space. Another practice might be to review your pesticide use and eliminate an application that is not necessary. There are hundreds of ways to fulfill this resolution and they all make a difference in the quality of your local environment.
o I will use the knowledge I have gained from gardening to contribute to the community in some way. Organizations such as the Master Gardeners (467-6575), Master Naturalists (698-2397) and Garden Volunteers of South Texas (522-9220) offer a wide variety of volunteer opportunities as do the Garden Clubs such as the San Antonio Men’s Garden Club (men and women welcome!). The San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio Botanical Garden and the Mitchell Lake Audubon Wildlife Refuge offer volunteer opportunities for individuals that have gardened. Your neighborhood school may have a classroom garden, or you could start one. Another way to fulfill this resolution is to select an environmental issue in the community such as the Water Conservation Ordinance or the Tree Preservation Ordinance and become knowledgeable enough about the issue to contribute to the discussions that revolve around them.
o I will resolve to improve my landscape by working to have 12 months of blooming plants. To have some plants blooming every month of the year to the benefit of my family, neighbors and property values. The planning to fulfill the resolution is challenging and the process of achieving your goal is fun. Here is a hint; January and July are the hardest months to have blooms. In my yard, paperwhites, cyclamen and pansies bloom in January. In July, esperanza, crepe myrtle and the blue salvias bloom well.
o I will improve my landscape by making it more of a haven for wildlife this year than it was last year. This resolution requires that you make an inventory of food and cover plants in your neighborhood. Plant some trees, shrubs or perennials that fill gaps in providing nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds or seeds and berries for songbirds. In many neighborhoods that are dominated by lawngrass, planting some thickets of hollies, viburnums and agarita will provide nesting sites for songbirds.
o I will resolve to use less water on my landscape by basing irrigation on the weather instead of just watering the lawn the same amount each week. The Texas Cooperative Extension and San Antonio Water System make this easy by providing personalized watering information through the SIP (Seasonal Irrigation Program). This program applies data from a weather station to a different formula for each lawngrass variety and sun condition (sun or shade) to determine the amount of water needed in a week, if any, for your lawn. It is more work to water a different amount some weeks but it will save about 20% through the typical summer. Visit the SAWS website, www.saws.org and click Conservation at the top of the page, then the Seasonal Irrigation Program to the left to obtain the information.
o I will resolve to build a raised bed garden and produce vegetables for my family and myself. This resolution will not save you any money or necessarily provide you with higher quality vegetables, but it will be fun, provide exercise and put you back in closer touch with nature and your own property. South Texas is a great place to raise vegetables. It is relatively easy to grow tomatoes at 2 times in the year, greens all winter, the best spinach and onions in the world and many other vegetables if you learn the right timing and techniques.