LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
With the arrival of 2022, it’s time to reflect on the past year and decide on goals for the new year. Research has shown that new beginnings and dates like New Year’s, your birthday and even Mondays are motivational when trying to tackle new goals. Consider your gardening goals this year.
This is a great time to reset. When coming up with New Year’s resolutions, many people focus on improving their overall health, eating healthier, traveling more, relaxing more or being more physically active. By increasing the amount of time you spend gardening this year, you can accomplish all of these goals.
To begin with, many of us think about losing weight, or at least eating healthier, this time of year. Most people tend to increase the amount of time they spend exercising in addition to increasing the amount of healthful foods they eat. One way to meet both of these goals is by gardening.
Fruits, nuts and vegetables are all excellent choices for a nutritious diet. All are full of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and other plant compounds such as antioxidants and anthocyanins. And they contain fewer calories than foods that are filled with fats and oils. Nuts provide healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids.
Consider planting a vegetable garden 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.
As far as fruit trees that can be grown in Louisiana, your best options are low-chill varieties of apples, peaches, pears and plums. Blueberries, especially native rabbiteye varieties, can be very successful in Louisiana, and so can blackberries and muscadines.
Tropical fruits such as satsumas, lemons, limes, navel oranges and kumquats can be grown in Louisiana. If you protect the plants from freezes, you can even grow pineapples in Louisiana.
Pecans are the go-to nut tree for Louisiana. You also can try black walnut and hickory trees, which are native to Louisiana.
Figs are another important fruit that has been very successful 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 also perform well in Louisiana. Loquats and pawpaws are two additional fruit trees easily grown in Louisiana.
When it comes to vegetables, the sky is the limit. We are very fortunate here in Louisiana to be able to grow vegetable crops year-round with a large assortment of both cool-season and warm-season varieties.
If engaging more in exercise and increasing your physical fitness is your goal, the garden is a great place to get in a good workout. Gardening activities are well suited to meet recommendations for daily physical activity. Gardening tasks such as digging, fertilizing, weeding, raking and tying plants to stakes use both upper and lower body strength, offering moderate-intensity physical activity comparable to brisk walking, swimming, dancing and biking.
Many gardening tasks are done while standing or squatting, such as pruning, mixing soil, planting seedlings, sowing, watering and harvesting. These are low-intensity physical activities, as are filling containers with soil and washing harvested produce.
If you are looking to reduce stress or improve your mental wellbeing, the garden is the perfect place. Many gardeners report having less stress and other therapeutic benefits from tending plants. Gardening can allow time for reflection and emotional processing. Mental benefits include a sense of purpose, relaxation and forgetting worries as you garden, in addition to increasing your ability to respond and rebound after difficulties, such as stress or illness.
If you are looking to increase the amount of time spent traveling, why not plan some trips to arboretums, botanical and public gardens and national parks? There also are many great educational conferences open to the public. The Gulf State Horticulture Expo is held every year in Mobile, Alabama. Additionally, there are many field days and horticulture educational events offered by the LSU AgCenter. Check our website for the events calendar.
Lastly, there is no shortage of gardening books. There are many publications from the AgCenter for Louisiana-specific gardening information. 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.
Gardening can be your one-stop shop for meeting your New Year’s resolutions this year. Get out there and get it growing!
Botanical gardens spread across the United States make great destinations when planning travel. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Find stress relief and relaxation by visiting botanical gardens found across the United States. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Garden plant trials are held throughout the year at many universities such as the one here in Fort Collins, Colorado. Plan travel around trials. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter