In the spirit of sowing tiny seeds in hopes of a magnificent harvest - in spite of all the challenges sure to arise - I offer my short list of 2012 resolutions for area gardens, including my own farm and gardening projects. As Oprah Winfrey says: "Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."
Grow food, if only a little: In 2012, let's all resolve to grow something in our gardens that we can eat. Small is beautiful - no need to plow up the whole yard or spend a fortune making "raised bed" box planters. A few choice herbs in pots is a great start. If you live in a condo or a student apartment, consider joining or starting a community garden at your building or in your neighborhood; at your workplace, church, or school; or in a local park.
Just say no to chemical dependency: Speaking of lawns and stereotyped landscaping, we all know the bad news. Like home-run sluggers and bike racers, to name a couple examples, our All-American yards turn out to be complete junkies for chemicals.
As English garden expert Monty Don points out, it is odd to find how many people buy only organic food and grow organic vegetable gardens, but then spray the rest of their lawn and landscape with a dense toxic cloud of yard products.
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Let's all resolve to clean up our act, not just in the vegetable patch but throughout our home and community landscapes. An excellent place to start is by taking better care of our soil. For home and community gardeners, learning how to make and use compost is an obvious first step. Composting is fun and easy, and Mecklenburg County even sponsors classes. For registration and information, call 704-432-1970.
Get inspired by blogs: When the heat, weeds and bugs get me down, nothing restores my optimism better than the blogs and writings of my fellow local gardeners and growers. Resolve to check in with them regularly - it is something we can do after dark.
One of my favorites is David Goforth, Cabarrus County Horticulture Extension Agent and himself a farmer, who combines scientifically solid information with insight and skillful writing and photos at http:// gardening guru goforth .blogspot .com .
I also like the Mecklenburg County Master Gardener's online magazine, The Thymes, edited by Debbie Moore Clark, at www. master gardeners mecklenburg .org/ horticultural -articles .html .
And nothing is more fun and full of insights than farmer Dean Mullis's blog, www. laughing owl farm .com .
National magazines and websites are helpful, too. I like Organic Gardening - www. organic gardening .com - and the inimitable Garden Rant blog, www. garden rant .com .
Check out local plant sales: Resolve to take advantage of the excellent plant sales in University City in 2012 during spring and fall. Perhaps the most interesting is UNC Charlotte's sale, featuring native plants, lovely flowers, and, for fans of "Little Shop of Horrors," carnivorous plants. Visit http:// gardens .uncc .edu for information.
Also in our backyard are the Master Gardener Herb and Plant Festival at Concord's Piedmont Farmer's Market - www.piedmont- farmersmarket.com - and Central Piedmont Community College's Cato Campus plant sale.
Pass along the passion: This year, resolve to look for opportunities to share your love of gardening. Is there a child who has never known the thrill of seeing a seed sprout and grow into a mighty stalk of corn? Is there a senior who used to love to garden but now can't find a place and may need a little help? Be as alert for chances to share gardening as you are for the first rosebuds or the first ripe tomato.
Slow down and get rooted: Finally, in 2012, may we all resolve to slow down, breathe and renew a deeper connection to our gardens and farmscapes in the midst of our increasingly frantic urban lives.
Gardens and farms mean many things: Expressions of our dreams, relentless never-ending task lists and economic enterprises that can raise our home values and put food on our tables. But they are something more as well. In our gardens and farms, we most closely touch the life-support systems that sustain our living planet. Simple decisions we make about what to grow and how to grow it reverberate throughout the biosphere.