Published on 07/14/97

What Can One Gardener Do?

Gardeners are a meditative lot. They spend time planting and plotting, hoeing and humming, thinning and thinking. What can one gardener do to make this world a better place?

More than you might think, said Wayne McLaurin, a horticulturist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

"We as a community of gardeners have one of the greatest opportunities to address many of the problems of modern life," McLaurin said. "We can make a significant difference in our lives. Collectively, gardeners could have an impact on many of the nation's problems."

McLaurin said it's never too late to make some resolutions.

Fight inflation. Under the best conditions, a well- planned garden (30 by 50 feet) can yield up to $500 in produce. And you don't owe any taxes. Gardening is an inexpensive pastime the entire family can share. A topnotch landscape an add 10 percent to the value of your property. And it's an investment that keeps growing.

Improve your family's nutrition. The garden is not only an inflation fighter, it's a source of highly nutritional foods that taste fresher and better when you grow them yourself. What tastes better than a home-grown tomato?

Conserve energy. With proper landscaping, you can reduce your air-conditioning bill in the summer and heating bill in the winter. Learn about the use of trees and shrubs to modify your environment while beautifying it.

Reduce pollution. Plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen -- something we can't live without. Your landscape can reduce air and water pollution. But be careful that you don't become a chemical polluter. Many homeowners use more chemicals per square foot than farmers use. Look for alternatives.

Protect the environment. The biggest source of stream problems is soil erosion. The cover of plants prevents erosion. Plan your landscape with food and shelter for wildlife. You will be richly rewarded. Don't take more from the environment than you can return to it. If you heat with wood, plant at least as many trees as you cut down. If you can't plant them on your property, then volunteer to plant them at schools, parks or other public places.

Conserve water. The average sprinkler will use 300 gallons of water per hour. Clear, pure water is a product of a complex system. Don't waste it. Never simply run cold water down the drain, waiting for hot water. Save it for your house plants. Consider trickle irrigation for all your plant growing areas.

Improve our educational system. Kids learn from more sources than just their teachers. Give a child a plant, and teach him or her how to care for it. Or make a larger commitment: sponsor a 4-H garden project or school garden program.

Improve your community. Make your neighborhood more attractive by working with others. Start with a good-looking, well-kept landscape. One of the quickest ways to add value to your home is through landscape improvement. If you have no space, plant a geranium or zinnia in a window box.

Improve your health. Gardening is great preventive medicine. It doesn't just provide physical activity. It also relieves many of the stresses and tensions of modern life. Take time to enjoy your garden.

Show you care. Share your horticultural skills and products with a friend. Then for a greater challenge, share them with someone in a nursing home, halfway home or hospital or a disadvantaged neighbor.