Gardening: It Does a Body Good

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s been a long cold lonely winter… or something like that. I know that February always bring those thoughts…  but this year, even the snow lovers are weary of it all. The snow shovels don’t get put away anymore, they stand propped up against the house in an attitude of resignation.

Perhaps you brace yourself to withstand the final icy grasp of winter by looking through seed catalogs and planning gardens, by reading about new varieties of tomatoes and new methods of germinating seeds. Perhaps you even have a cold frame and will jump the season and nurture seedlings into edible lettuce plants early. Or, perhaps you’ll wait a little longer to start seedlings indoors or wait for the traditional days to plant outdoors. Did you know that planting potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day is a gardening tradition?

But what if you have never had a garden? Or don’t have a yard large enough for a garden plot? Or live in the shade? Can a novice start a growing tradition? Should they? Absolutely! There are resources for every gardening obstacle and plenty of help for the greenest of green thumb wannabes.

Is your yard too small?  Too shady? Too rocky? Try a community garden. If you live in Howard County, check out Howard County community gardens and the garden at the Howard County Conservancy. Other jurisdictions offer the programs, as well. In addition to a right-sized plot, many of these gardens include deer fencing, compost heaps, water and even plantings to encourage pollinators. Equally important- they offer expert advice from fellow gardeners- just what the novice needs!

Do you need information about how to get started? Information about types of plants? Resources about pest management? Questions about fertilizers? The Howard County Library System has an extensive selection of books that can answer all of your questions about gardening. And, of course, there is always the Old Farmer’s Almanac – published continuously since 1792- it is wealth of information. If you learn better from attending classes in person, the University of Maryland Extension service offers a series of gardening classes in Howard County that will get you off on the right track.

Finally, do you need to have a reason to give gardening a go this year?  Here are a few good reasons.

  • It’s good for the bottom line. Gardening can save you money. A $2 tomato plant can produce $60 worth of tomatoes during a single growing season. The drought in California will cause produce prices to rise, buying locally- and better yet, growing locally will save you money.
  • It’s good for the bottom line- the other bottom line. Growing your own vegetables is great exercise. Eating fresh veggies may keep you fit, but the physical exercise that it requires also contributes positively to your fitness level. Think of what all that weeding and hoeing will do for your glutes!
  • Fresh vegetables are nutritious and tasty because they have the chance to ripen on the vine. If you’ve never had the opportunity to go out just before dinner and pluck a red ripe tomato off the vine to add to your salad- you don’t know what you are missing. No supermarket tomato will ever compare.
  • It’s good for the environment. Locally sourcing your own vegetables reduces- the carbon resources need to transport veggies from far away.
  • Staying connected to the earth is good for your mental health and the extra sunshine vitamin D will give your mood- and immune system- a boost, as well.

Perhaps most importantly, though…  planning a garden gives you something to look forward to in the lingering days of February.  And if that isn’t encouragement enough, I leave you with a little music to get you going.