If you’re among the almost 50 percent of Americans who statistics show make New Year’s resolutions, be sure to remember gardening when setting your goals for next year. In fact, consider putting gardening at the top of your list.

Gardening can help you achieve some of the other resolutions that are often at the top of resolution lists, such as slowing down from the hectic pace, living a simpler life, exercising and losing weight.

To help you get started, here are five goals to consider adding to your list of New Year’s resolutions:

  1. If you’re not a gardener, become one. You don’t even have to have a yard. Condo and apartment dwellers might be surprised to know how many flowers, herbs and small vegetables they can grow in pots. Beginning gardeners might also be surprised to learn that gardening is exercise and gardening is good for you in other ways as well. Like all exercises, gardening will help you burn calories while helping you reduce stress and unplug. It will also teach you patience — after all, you can’t hurry Mother Nature!
  2. Reduce your lawn area. Lawns are high-maintenance money pits. If you replace some of your grass with shrubs, perennials or even vegetables, you’ll spend less time behind the lawn mower and less money on fertilizing, watering during droughts and re-seeding in the spring or fall. You can even begin this project now by organically killing a portion of your lawn. All you have to do is select an area of grass and smother it with compost and aged manure or “burn it up” by solarizing it under plastic sheets. By spring, the area should be ready for planting and mulching.
  3. Go native. This will really simply your life! Native plants adapt much easier to periods of stressful weather, such as droughts or bitter winter cold snaps, than hybrids or the Asian introductions so often seen in nurseries across America. They also help sustain beneficial insect and bird populations because they attract native pollinators and birds that might not be drawn to non-natives.
  4. Start a compost bin. Here, again, you don’t need a yard or large space to create garden compost. Small composters no bigger than a patio grill are available from garden centers or on line. They’ll turn kitchen scraps, leaves or yard waste into what some gardeners call “black gold” — nutrient-rich material for your pots or in-ground plants. Industrious and handy gardeners, of course, can build their own bins using 4x4 posts and heavy gauge wire or slatted boards. Either way, for the eco-conscious they serve the added purpose of reducing the amount of recycle material that otherwise would go to the curb.
  5. Add one new sustainable method to your gardening routine. Working in harmony with nature instead of fighting it will improve the health of your soil, the bounty from your garden and minimize negative effects on the environment — as well as cut down on your stress! There are many sustainable practices you can use to increase your gardening enjoyment. One example would be to resolve to eliminate chemical fertilizers. Another would be to install one or more rain barrels to capture rain runoff from the roof. You could also start using a drip or soaker hose that would put water directly on the plant root zone rather than broadcasting it to unintended places from an oscillating sprinkler.
What gardening resolutions are you making for 2013? Please share your ideas in the comments section below. And don’t be surprised if we check back with you in a few months to see how you’re doing. (One study we saw found that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them!)

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