Leonard P. Perry, University of Vermont Extension
The beginning of the New Year is the time to reflect on the past year, and to make resolutions for changes whether in health, personal habits, or in my case gardening. Here are a few of my gardening resolutions for this coming year that may give you ideas for yours.
–I resolve when ordering seeds this winter, to be realistic and only order what I can plant, and more importantly maintain during the season.
–When sowing vegetables in the garden, I’ll make successive plantings so all my lettuce and carrots don’t all come ripe at once. Come to think of it, I’ll do the same when setting out my gladiolus corms, so they don’t all flower at the same time. I’ll mark the calendar now to set them out 10 days apart, early, mid, and late May.
–Another item I didn’t get to this year, I’ll add to my resolutions for this coming year, is to plant enough vegetables to freeze, and make time to do this. Lacking the vegetables and time to keep up with them, my fallback option is to buy local produce to freeze.
–That’s another great resolution I’ll have to add, even if I have enough produce, visiting a local farmers’ market regularly to get what I don’t grow, and other food and fun goods.
–I will be more diligent in making good compost, turning my pile more often.
–On the topic of compost, early in the season I will either buy a bulk load or pallet of compost to spread on my beds before the perennials get too tall. With compost being used up yearly in the garden, so needing to be added each year, this resolution will be on my list for future years too.
–With the weeds getting ahead of me this year in my perennial beds, I’ll make it a priority to get the beds cleaned early this coming season, and to keep up with the weeds this year.
–Thinking of weeds, I’ll start saving newspapers and get them laid down early in the season in garden paths and cover with mulch, sawdust, or wood shavings from the local mill.
–I admit, sometimes this past year I didn’t get sunscreen applied on sunny days. I’ll do a better job with this, using one with a SPF rating of at least 30.
–Thinking about my health, I’ll resolve to use garden tools properly, to lift heavy loads with my legs and not my back (or better yet to get help), to stretch and loosen muscles before gardening, to drink plenty of water, to take breaks (especially when hot), and do avoid long stretches of repetitive tasks (alternate among tasks every 10 to 20 minutes).
–My wife will like this one. I’ll do a better job of taking my gardening shoes and boots off before coming indoors, even if just for a quick break. I’ve learned that those shoe scrapers are great, but with gardening mud don’t quite do the job leaving a trail of muddy bits as proof.
–I feel embarrassed when guests visit and ask the name of a plant, and I can’t find a label. At least I have a list of perennials by bed, which I’ll go through this winter and research the colors of daylilies or roses or other large groupings I have. Then next season I’ll try to match descriptions with the flowers when in bloom in order to get the names back on the plants. If you’re not a plant collector, or just plant perennials for their beauty and design, or better yet keep up with your labels and plant names (congratulations if so!), this may not be on your list to do.
–For the wildlife, I’ll resolve to keep bird baths cleaned and filled regularly, to keep bird feeders stocked and also cleaned periodically of old and rotting seeds, and to keep hummingbird feeders filled and cleaned every few days beginning the first of May.
–When buying plants this year, I’ll try to find ones in pots I can wash and reuse rather than just discard as is common with so many cheap plastic plant containers. Better yet, I’ll look for plants in pots made from recycled materials.
–I’ve begun to try and reduce my carbon footprint in my garden, using more hand tools and less power tools for starters. I’ll continue to watch for ways to be more environmentally friendly.
–I’ve learned in our climate one has to take advantage of the nice days when we have them. If a nice day, and I can take a leave day from work and don’t have essential commitments or meetings, I’ll make a point to garden. To paraphrase a ski bumper sticker, Garden Today, Work Tomorrow.
–When tired of gardening or needing a break, I’ll make a point to visit a local specialty perennial nursery (especially on a rainy day when its less fun to work in the garden). I’ll try to visit some nurseries I haven’t yet from the online listing (pss.uvm.edu/ppp/vpdgli.html). If tired of just flowers, I’ll visit a local berry farm or orchard (www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/farmlinks.html), or make a local tour of cheese farms (www.vtcheese.com/cheesetrail.htm) and wineries (vermontgrapeandwinecouncil.com).
I’m sure I could think of many more resolutions, but these are probably enough to keep me busy and to get you started in your own. But don’t forget, perhaps most importantly, resolve to take time to smell the flowers, to savor the vegetables, and to just enjoy your efforts.