Keep your resolutions with gardening

This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions we hope to carry out in the coming year. Consider resolutions that can be tied to your interest in gardening and can also make a profound impact on your well-being.

We can resolve to take better care of ourselves in the coming year. Related to the garden, this can take many forms. In Hawaii, we grow very few apples, but we certainly can grow many other fruits and vegetables, as well as ornamentals that can delight the spirit.

Pledge to get more exercise. The garden is a great place for low- or medium-impact activities. Walking and working around the yard can keep muscles loose and moving. The garden can also be a place to unwind, reducing the stresses accumulated during the day.

Promise to eat better and more nutritionally balanced foods. The best foods come fresh from the garden. While nearly all of us will never grow enough food to sustain ourselves and our families, we certainly are capable of supplementing our diet with fresh fruits and vegetables with minimal effort. Be a little adventurous and try something new. If the task of growing a new plant is a bit too much to take on, try eating something new and different. If you like it, you can then try to grow it in your garden. Try an egg fruit or other sapote, or maybe a dragon fruit. Nearly all of us eat red tomatoes, but how about yellow pear, orange Valencia, black cherry or striped green zebra varieties?

Lettuce is one of the easiest crops to grow, and with a little planning, you can grow all of the lettuce your family requires. It comes in variations of texture and color, from loose leaf to heading types. It will grow in most garden soils, potting media and even hydroponically. Baby leaf lettuce can be harvested in as few as three weeks. Plants will continue to produce until the stalk elongates for flowering.

Resolve to plant a tree. Plant something you will eat or use on a regular basis, such as avocado, tangerine, lemon, lime or starfruit. It has been said the best time to plant a fruit tree was yesterday, and the second best day is today. How about a great future shade tree, one to sit under and relax on balmy days?

With the demise of the local honeybee population because of a host of pests, planting nectar and pollen food source plants can assist in population recovery by providing good sources of food year-round. The choices include trees, shrubs and herbaceous annuals. One of my favorites is basil, which comes in a variety of colors, tastes and aromas. Basil in my garden is an indicator plant for honeybee activity.

Gardening can also be great for social interaction — in comparing notes, produce and plants with friends and neighbors. Share your garden plant knowledge with others and make Hawaii a better place to live. Most schools on Hawaii Island have gardens. Volunteer with a school gardening program to share your knowledge.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources can help get you started by providing gardening information through its master gardener program. Master gardeners are dedicated volunteers trained to assist the public with gardening questions. Kona master gardeners may be reached from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays at 322-4892 or in the office at 79-7381 Mamalahoa Highway.

My garden resolution for 2013 is to terrace the area behind the house to create a relatively flat lawn area, develop and plant phase 2 of the vegetable garden and select and plant a few more fruit trees.

For more information on this and other gardening topics, visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at or visit any of the local Cooperative Extension Service offices.

Russell Nagata is the Hawaii County administrator of the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. He can be reached at