Even though we’ve just finished another spell of extremely cold weather, I’m hoping you are excited about getting going on a garden. Your new year’s resolutions to exercise and eat better can both be reached by raising a vegetable garden.

But as you move forward with grand plans, please keep the following in mind.

First, keep it modest. When we do decide to garden, we can often go big and that will set us up for failure when schedules get tight, the weather turns hot and the weeds get ahead of us. My suggestion (that has absolutely no scientific backing) is to start with a garden the size of a small bedroom.

Yes that is small, but can be enough to keep up with and provide plenty of food for your family. My son’s first garden was a raised bed garden with four old wooden pallets.

I’m man enough to admit I found that idea on Pinterest.

My son and I grew lots of cucumbers that year as well as some tomatoes and few peppers. First put newspaper on the ground you are going to cover with a pallet. Place your pallet in its spot and then add one bag of good garden compost between the slats and you are ready to plant.

Secondly, choose a location with a full day’s sun. Full sun, all day long, is crucial to optimum vegetable growth and production. Lack of sunlight because of our beautiful tall trees is a common problem and one that may determine where you can put your garden.

Use good soil. Too often we expect a silk purse from a sows ear. Your tomato plant can make 20 lbs of fruit IF it is in good soil, rich in nutrients. Compost is always your best friend. Add compost every year and incorporate into the soil.

Put the garden in a spot that is easy to water. While this isn’t a problem with most, there will be a few where watering becomes quite a chore. Locate your spigots and make plans to get a longer hose.

And along with not having the garden too far from water, don’t have it too far from the house. Ideally, you want it visible from your kitchen window. So close, in fact, that it’s on you mind because you see the garden everyday and are reminded to harvest the potatoes and find those red tomatoes hiding in the dense vegetation.

Let’s be honest, you get in front of the seed display and think “Oh! I’ll try these! I bet I can find a good recipe for them.” Perhaps you can but be truthful and plant that which your family likes to begin with. I think growing beets would be fun, but my family is not a fan of beets. When starting out and limiting your space, plant what folks are looking forward to eating.

Even with this earth-shattering advice, just go plant something because research has found repeatedly that gardening is the ultimate medication! In addition to any medication you can take, studies show gardening helps fight high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and more.

Besides your physical condition, gardening helps fight depression, and leads to improved sleep, improved relaxation, and overall mental wellbeing.

If my gardening could only make me younger and handsome….

This Monday, Jan 15, at 6:30 pm, the Angelina County Extension Office will hold a seminar on Home Vegetable Gardening. Dr. Joe Masabni, professor and vegetable specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, will be our guest speaker. Cost is $10 per person.

County offices will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, but the meeting will be held that evening.