Plenty of advanced gardeners end each season thinking in depth about how they can improve for next year. Great gardeners understand that they can't always control everything. Weather, rainfall levels, and sometimes even soil conditions all behave with a mind of their own. However, experienced gardeners also have one habit that even someone new to gardening can adopt: they notice trends over time and take note of the conditions that tend to help their plants thrive. The steps they take to replicate those conditions, even if they were originally just mistakes, is what gardening really is at it's most basic level.
Here are some great New Year's Resolutions for beginning gardeners. Whether you are a total fledgling who hasn't ever grown a plant, or a few years into your journey, you've probably noticed the many things you cannot control, but don't be discouraged or intimidated. Here are some great ways to grow as a gardener and see great results.
Curl Up This Winter With Some Garden Reading
Much of what you don't know about gardening personally is known by someone. Whether you focus on Dave's Garden's extensive library of information, or you pull a book about gardening a particular kind of plant, make time during the fallow season to sit down and document things you should know about your favorite crops and flowers. Figure out whether direct sow or starting indoors is best for your hardiness zone, for instance, and what temperatures tend to wither away certain varieties. Some of your reading can just be memorizing the all-important information on the back of your seed packets, and making up a calendar to know when these plants reach maturity.
Every bit of knowledge helps and the great thing about starting a garden is that it's a process. You don't need to be an expert today or tomorrow, but picking up a little bit of new knowledge lets you grow just as your plants ideally will.
Make Weeding a Mission
Once you've picked out what varieties are right for you and where you'd like to do your planting, the next steps are running off any furry critters who might otherwise eat your crops. Those are simple, often one time tasks but now comes the tougher work.
For most casual gardening, weeding becomes the main, monotonous issue to combat. Figure out what it takes for you to stay ahead of the weeds: twice weekly early-morning hours? Twilight weed battles? Schedule the time even if you think the beds look good. It's so much nicer to spend one hour pulling extremely small weeds than hours in the sun wrestling with huge unwanted plants.
Look Up Those Fungi or Bites on The Leaves
Don't feel helpless when you see spots on your leaves. Even if you have no idea what the problem is, the internet can help you come up with a decent diagnosis. Try some of the more natural remedies they offer if you aren't sure, and if the diseased leaves are very distinctive, you can confidently pick a solution. Even if you get it wrong sometimes, try addressing diseases, pests, and fungi rather than sitting passively. Don't dismiss any setbacks with your plants as failures or make the mistake of simply believing you don't have a green thumb. This is how you get information that helps you grow!
Plant Something A Little More Finicky
Many gardeners find first-season luck with tomatoes, lettuce, and other easy-to-grow plants. For this year, find something that is considered a little harder to grow, requiring a little more care. Pick a vegetable or fruit you especially love, so that the extra care will be worth it. This will either teach you that this plant is worth the effort or not so much, but it is worth it to learn!
Grow Enough to Can or Freeze Some Veggies
If you have previously used all your veggies and fruits as you go throughout the season, abandoning zucchini on friends' doorsteps and passing out tomatoes at picnics, this might be the year to can or freeze. Often it takes an extra-big crop of a particular sort, like tomatoes, to make the effort of canning worth it, but freezing takes no special equipment, and you'd be amazed by how satisfying it is to have homegrown food in the dead of winter. Growing a lot of one thing can be intimidating, but learning how to do it is well worth it, like many other gardening challenges.
Plant a Bigger Patch
This might just be the year to expand! If you've been letting some nondescript hedges take up space, maybe this is the year to add a new patch of ornamental flowers, berry bushes, or vegetables in their place. Recognize that the better and smarter you get as a gardener, the more plants you can handle. Just make sure you also do the weeding resolution above; more overgrown beds isn't better than fewer tidy ones.
Keep Notes For The Next Year
One of the biggest problems that gardeners face is knowing they had thought of some resolutions, but not having them written down. So this year, resolve to get a dedicated notebook or online program where you can take notes on how the plants are doing. Remember everything you notice happening to each of your varieties of plants, so that you can keep growing the things you care about and that work well.
No matter what your personal goal is next year, your beginning gardener goals can be incremental: learn one or two things from this season and apply them to next season. These lessons become the wisdom that guides experienced gardeners and helps them make good choices for their plants.