I always equate the first week of January with the first day back to work after vacation. In disbelief I find myself thinking: Wow, is it over already? From the festivities of Thanksgiving to the popping of the cork on New Year’s Eve, those few weeks go by in the wink of an eye. Although January lacks much of the excitement of the previous month, this is not to say the month is lacking in things to do or new resolutions to fulfill.
For many of us, the last several weeks included a diet and lifestyle that may have been somewhat compromised in regards to health and good nutrition. Obviously, that often results in a series of resolutions to lose weight, eat better and get more exercise. To me, that sounds like the perfect recipe for taking up gardening in 2021. I have always found the shear amazement of watching plants grow to be very uplifting. Combine that joy with the healthy outdoor activities of weeding, pruning and planting, along with growing food that is both ornamental and nutritious and you are well on your way to fulfilling your resolutions through gardening.
Gardening does require a bit of study and learning. Fortunately, January is a great time to look at your yard, deck or patio and consider what you could do in the year to come to make it more attractive or perhaps more environmentally friendly. If one of your resolutions is to improve the environment in your community, consider signing up for the Environmental Stewards Program. The program begins on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and runs from 5-8 p.m. every Tuesday through June 1. For information, visit https://envirostewards.rutgers.edu/county-classes/. The program is designed to introduce homeowners to the science behind important environmental issues affecting NJ. Stewards then give back to their communities by helping to tackle local environmental problems.
If you are looking for a less structured approach and simply wish to focus on improving the ecology or attractiveness of your own yard, there are a number of great publications from the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) that can provide helpful information. You can find the publications at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/subcategory.php?cat=5&sub=1001 and more selected publications for the home at https://njaes.rutgers.edu/home-lawn-garden/.
One simple approach to improving the attractiveness of your garden is to consider how views could be improved from your favorite gazing window. We do not think too much about it, but we spend a good 4 months or more inside during the colder months, gazing out windows! Are we staring into a neighbor’s garage, declining trees or a mundane area of turf? Is the garden area animated by visiting birds in search of a winter meal or lit up by the fiery stems of Red Stemmed Dogwoods (Cornus sericea) or Willows (Salix alba ‘Britzensis’) contrasting against an evergreen backdrop? Taking that small step to improve your favorite view could be your first step into the world of gardening, or provide you with the opportunity to expand upon your current knowledge.
Another great step into the world of gardening is with vegetables. This may seem like a huge jump if you have never grown vegetables before, but you do not have to start with a large vegetable garden, complete with fencing. If you have an arbor, a lattice fence or even some branches to form a teepee, you have the support needed for numerous vining vegetables like Tomatoes, Pole Beans, Cucumbers or Malabar Spinach to name a few. More compact growing vegetables, like eggplant and pepper can be mixed in with annuals and perennials or in the case of parsley or herbs, used as an edging. For additional ideas on growing vegetables, as well as numerous other plants, consider attending the virtual Home Gardeners School on Feb. 20. Visit www.cpe.rutgers.edu/courses/current/ah0224wa.html for more information.
Of course, the physical exercise associated with planting and maintaining ornamentals and vegetables is merely just a part of a resolution to improve your health. The other part is to practice healthy food preparation and cooking. Join Daryl Minch as she creates a Thai-styled Tofu Curry on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at noon. For more information on this mouthwatering meal go to https://events.rutgers.edu/njaes/event.php?id=21435. If you are still ‘hungry’ for more great recipes, join Jennifer Korneski as she makes Healthy Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins. Go to https://events.rutgers.edu/njaes/event.php?id=21436&d=202101&u=all&c=00 for information on this delicious program to be held on Friday, Jan. 15 at 11 a.m.
January 2021 is finally here with all the hopes, aspirations and resolutions that come with the start of a New Year! From the perspective of a gardener, the year offers exciting new adventures in learning and growing new plants, experimenting with new vegetables and crafting the tempting dishes they can create. All the while, gardening provides the added benefit of great exercise and fresh air. I hope gardening is at the top of everyone’s resolution for 2021!