With the arrival of 2022, it’s time to formulate your gardening goals for the year.
Now is a great time to reset. When making New Year’s resolutions, many people focus on improving their overall health, eating healthier, traveling more often, being more relaxed, or being physically active. By increasing the time you spend gardening this year, you can achieve all of these goals.
For starters, many of us think about losing weight, or at least eating healthier, this time of year. Most people tend to increase the time they spend exercising in addition to increasing the amount of healthy foods they eat. Gardening is one way to achieve both of these goals.
Fruits, nuts, and vegetables are all great choices for a nutritious diet. All of them are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other immune-boosting plant compounds such as antioxidants and anthocyanins. And they contain fewer calories than foods high in fat and oils. Nuts provide healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Consider planting a vegetable patch or a fruit tree or shrub, or you can try your hand at a nut tree. Some great options for Louisiana can be found on the LSU AgCenter website under the “Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables” tab.
When it comes to fruit trees that can be grown in Louisiana, your best options are low-cooling varieties of apples, peaches, pears, and plums. Blueberries, especially the native varieties of rabbiteye, can be successful in Louisiana, as can blackberries and muscadines.
Tropical fruits such as satsumas, lemons, limes, navel oranges, and kumquats can also be grown in Louisiana. If you protect the plants from frost, you can even grow pineapples on them.
Pecans are the favorite nut tree for our region. You can also try black walnut trees and hickory trees, both native to the state.
Figs are another important fruit that has seen success in Louisiana, with several varieties being developed by the LSU AgCenter including Celeste, LSU Gold, LSU Purple, Champagne, Tiger, and O’Rourke. Brown Turkey, Alma and Kadota are also very successful. Medlars and papayas are two other easy-to-grow fruit trees in the area.
When it comes to vegetables, the sky is the limit. We are fortunate here in Louisiana to be able to grow vegetables year round with a large assortment of cool and warm season varieties.
If your goal is to get more exercise and improve your fitness, the backyard is a great place to get a good workout. Gardening activities are well suited to meet recommendations for daily physical activity. Tasks such as digging, fertilizing, weeding, raking and tying plants to stakes use both upper and lower body strength, providing moderate-intensity physical activity comparable to brisk walking, swimming, dancing and cycling.
Many gardening tasks are performed while standing or squatting, such as pruning, soil mixing, planting seedlings, sowing, watering, and harvesting. These are low-intensity physical activities, just like filling containers with soil and washing harvested produce.
If you are looking to reduce stress or improve your mental well-being, the garden is the place to be. Many gardeners report having less stress and other therapeutic benefits from caring for the plants. Gardening can leave time for reflection and emotional processing. Mental benefits include a sense of purpose, relaxation, and forgetting about worries while you garden, in addition to increasing your ability to react and bounce back from difficulties, such as stress or illness.
If you’re looking to increase the time you spend traveling, why not plan trips to arboreta, botanical and public gardens, and national parks? There are also many large educational conferences open to the public. The Gulf State Horticulture Expo is held annually in Mobile, Alabama. In addition, the LSU AgCenter offers many field days and educational events in horticulture. See our website for the calendar of events.
Finally, there is no shortage of gardening books. There are many AgCenter publications for gardening information specific to Louisiana. Research has shown that reading books in general can help improve brain function by strengthening connections in your brain, reducing stress and age-related cognitive decline, and helping improve memory and focus. .