(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 31, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Happy New Year, Gardeners! As the big day rolls around, we think about how we're going to do better in our gardens this year. Maybe your garden was perfect last year, but mine was not. The main thing that was wrong was the absence of the gardener for prolonged periods of time. Other activities claimed my attention, and the garden suffered as a result. I have several resolutions as I enter the New Year.
Here are my resolutions:
- I resolve to work on my sprinkler system. I'm ashamed to admit it, but some of the spray heads are missing from the tops of their tubes in my shrub beds. There are a few places where the water shoots straight up into the air. These will be fixed early this year. It will mean a trip to the supply store, but I just have to buckle down. I need some new flexible pipe, too, because I've poked holes in the existing pipe, and it leaks in places where it shouldn't.
- I resolve to wear sunscreen and protective clothing when I work in the garden. I have bought some long-sleeved, light-weight shirts, a good supply of sunscreen and insect repellant, and several pairs of gloves. I resolve to put them on before going outside.
- I resolve to concentrate more on books now in progress. Not only has my garden suffered because of my absence, but books I have been writing are too often put on the back burner in favor of other activities.
I offer the following resolutions for gardeners to consider as they enter into a new gardening year.
- Resolve to reduce your dependence on chemicals in the garden. Use cultural and physical controls before reaching for the chemicals. Choose pest-resistant plants and promote optimum health by providing for their cultural needs. Attract beneficial insects such as lady beetles, green lacewings, and beneficial wasps to your garden to help control the "bad bugs." Appreciate and encourage the anoles, toads, spiders, and other creatures that help control the pests. Learn about integrated pest management (IPM) and use its principles to help you reach your goals.
- If you have to resort to strong measures, resolve to do so knowledgeably. Correctly diagnose insect and disease problems in the garden. Don't guess and apply an insecticide or other substance unless you know what you're treating. Insecticides and poisons are very specific. What will kill one insect or disease will not affect another one. Plan to take your plant problems to the Extension office or to a garden center for a positive diagnosis. Then learn which substance will most effectively solve your problem with the least harm to the environment and yourself.
- Resolve to water your plants and lawn correctly. Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots. Irrigate early in the morning to allow for the greatest number of drying hours. Be sure that a device is on the sprinkler system that cuts it off in the event of rain. Mulch beds and shrubs to conserve moisture, and choose drought-resistant plants.
- Resolve to make your garden more attractive to wildlife. Provide plants to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Consider adding some feeders as well as a source of water. These wild creatures not only entertain you, but they also pollinate your flowers and vegetables.
- Resolve to learn more about gardening from books, newspaper articles, and magazines. Subscribe to a couple of good gardening magazines, and make use of the horticulture books in your library. Add a few good references to your own bookshelf, and use them when selecting plants and deciding where to place them in the landscape.
- Resolve to enjoy your garden more. Spend more time looking rather than working. Stop obsessing about perfection and learn to live with the garden even if it leaves a bit to be desired. Enjoy the garden for what it should be--a place of beauty to relax and enjoy instead of a constant labor-intensive chore.
I intend to practice what I preach. I hope you'll join me and play a little, experiment a little, and learn a lot about enjoying and caring for our beautiful earth.