Gardening New Year’s resolutions
With Jan. 1 just around the corner, many of us are still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution. Most people seek resolutions that will change their life, make them angelic, smarter, popular, healthier, and of course happier. It’s exhausting just to think about it. In contrast, I offer resolutions for the chronic procrastinator. That’s right, these resolutions, with a few exceptions, can be delayed for months, at least until the growing season. I present to you my top 10 gardening resolutions.
1. Next summer I will remove from my garden anything that doesn’t measure up. If it looks mangled, strangled or otherwise malnourished I am pulling it out! In the past I have been too much of a nurturer; watering, pruning, feeding or blasting with insecticide ailing plants all for naught and to the detriment of a pretty landscape.
2. I will conserve water. Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. I will water in the morning which tends to be cooler and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is much less than during the middle of the day. Choosing native plants and mulching will also conserve water.
3. I will make no pruning cut without a good reason including safety, health of the subject plant or other plants around it. Reasons not to prune include excess energy or a new pair of pruners. I will also practice “timely” pruning following the advice of experts. Once I pruned my hydrangeas in March and later wondered why I had no blooms that year. I had inadvertently removed all of the buds.
4. I will make a long range plan for my landscape and stick to it. In past years my garden has been victimized by my compulsive plant buying. This includes purchasing whatever is on sale then later squeezing said sale items into the landscape regardless of space limitations or light requirements, often at the plant’s peril.
5. I resolve to include at least one tree in my landscape plan that no one else on my block has planted. The plight of ash trees destroyed by their nemesis the emerald ash borer reminds us that diversity is the key to urban forest disease control. Variety of plantings insures that no single disease or insect can wipe out all the neighborhood trees.
6. I can’t speak about trees without reminding myself and others to promise not to mulch little volcanoes around the base of their trees. Mulch should be applied two to four inches deep with a one to inch mulch free area around the base of the tree to insure proper water and oxygen flow and to prevent insects from damaging the bark.
7. Practice integrated pest management. Before reaching for the nearest available pesticide, I will attempt to identify the pest, evaluate the degree of damage and weigh the pros and cons of using pesticides. Natural enemies of plant-eating insects may be able to provide natural control or the damage may just be cosmetic and not really call for treatment at all.
8. I promise to remember what I plant by keeping the plant tag or the seed envelope in just one convenient spot. I used to “plant” the tag next to the plant in order to later identify it, but unfortunately the tags always blew away. The seed envelopes in particular provide a broad range of helpful information about sun requirements, irrigation, fertilization and time to maturity.
9. I will make a conscious effort to provide food and water for birds and wildlife and continue to feed them once they have come to depend on me. This year I left out a Halloween pumpkin until December. Eventually the animals chewed a hole in it in order to harvest the seeds and fruit. It was fun to watch.
10. This year I will start a compost pile. By mixing it in the soil I will enrich my garden and improve plant growth.
So, there you have it — my top 10 gardening resolutions most of which I can postpone for months. Procrastination is not for everyone but I guarantee it’s a lot easier than losing 10 pounds.
Michelle Pearson is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.