Janet Laminack: Gardening a worthy resolution for the new year

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Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo/Janet Laminack
Burgundy okra has unusual foliage, yellow flowers and a maroon edible pod. It makes for a striking and beautiful plant.

A new year is a time for transformation when many people commonly think of getting more exercise, learning something new and having more fun. And I do indeed have the silver bullet answer for all your New Year’s resolutions: Take up gardening!

Gardening can be good exercise. It’s considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a moderate intensity-level activity, and research shows those who garden are likely to exercise 40 minutes longer on average than those who choose activities such as walking. The CDC recommends two and a half hours of moderate intensity-level activity each week.

Gardening is also a proven stress reliever. Studies have shown that test subjects who gardened experience more of a decrease in stress than those subjects who were assigned reading for stress relief.

Gardeners know that playing in the dirt can be calming and relaxing, but there may be even more to it than that. Scientists at Bristol University are studying the anti-depressant qualities of working in the soil. It seems that a bacterium found naturally in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, may activate the production of serotonin in your brain, which helps regulate mood. Being outside in sunlight also boosts serotonin production and can be especially valuable during the winter.

Gardening is a creative outlet; I’ve heard it called the “slowest of the performing arts.” Your palette doesn’t just consist of colors, but you can mix textures, smells, sounds, not to mention seasonality or regional differences. Along those lines, gardening is very intellectually stimulating.

You can sink into learning about one genus of plants such as roses or daylilies or orchids and become an expert. Or you can experiment with one of everything that you haven’t seen before at the garden center. I’m the latter type, so here’s my tip: limit your hodgepodge experimental approach to your backyard, it’s less humiliating. Not only that, but a thoughtful landscape design can improve the curb appeal of your home and increase its value. So if at all possible, it’s best to go with the tried and true for the front yard.

And we haven’t even talked about edibles yet. Many people get into gardening for the great tasting homegrown tomatoes. Certainly growing your own vegetables can be rewarding and most of us do need to increase our consumption of vegetables. Research shows that children will eat vegetables that they grow, so get those picky eaters out there in the garden. Herbs do great in our area. They look good even in flowerbeds and they are usually expensive to buy in the grocery store. Using herbs in your recipes can help you cut back on many of the less healthy additions you may add to your food for seasoning such as butter or salt.

Find out about upcoming opportunities to learn more about your newest hobby by following the Denton County Master Gardeners on Facebook or signing up for our e-newsletter at www.dcmga.com. And we are always available to help you with individual questions at master.gardener@dentoncounty.com or by calling 940-349-2892.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.


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