Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Garden Resolutions

It's that time of year again when we promise to improve ourselves and our lives in the freshness of a brand new year. I try to keep those promises rather modest because, well, if I set the bar fairly low it's tough to be disappointed in myself. So there will be no grandiose declarations about new workout regimens or truly life-changing activities. But before getting bogged down in the challenges the year throws at us, I will set our some modest yet worthwhile (and achievable) resolutions for being a better gardener.

1. Mulch frequently. Smothering weeds, retaining moisture, and adding organic matter--mulch has the garden trifecta. Not only is it totally worth the time and effort to reap these benefits, but mulching doesn't cost me a dime. There is a municipal mulch pile literally at the end of my street. It's locally recycled brush ground up by the city, so it's environmentally easy-going on a number of levels (few resources used for transport, no packaging, etc.). Also, it's completely free to whomever takes the initiative to shovel it into his or her car/truck/bucket. Sure, I find the occasional piece of metal debris, cigarette butt, or un-mulched branch that made it through the chipper inexplicably unscathed, but it's free and did I mention it's down the street? Basically I have no excuse for not keeping this garden mulched constantly, and I am reminded of that each time the weeds threaten to overtake the place. In 2010, I will mulch frequently.

(This is not OK.)

2. Plant a Japanese maple. Yes, I've chosen to go with a Japanese maple for my empty shady corner after a minimally exhaustive quest for a shrub. Dogwoods and dwarf conifers sounded appealing, don't get me wrong, but I think this is the only spot in the garden where a Japanese maple could conceivably thrive.

I shouldn't pass up that opportunity. I'm still on the fence about the particular cultivar, although 'Bloodgood' is a frontrunner. This spring will entail a search of local nurseries that will hopefully lead me to a lovely weeping variety. Regardless of what the exact specimen turns out to be, in 2010 I will plant a Japanese maple.

3. Fix that @$!# front border. The tiny strip of solid, nutrient-free clay that I call my front border has been the bane of my gardening existence for five years. Over that time I've reclaimed some small swathes of land from the lawn and planted as much as I could, from the dry shade under the red maple to the scorched, sunny area next to the driveway. But this year I laid down newspaper and mulch to smother enough grass to make this a respectable garden border.

(Perhaps those basils need a little more space?)

Hostas, coleus, and more woodland wildflowers are on tap for the shade area, and some Hakone grass (Hackonechloa macra) may find its way behind the bearded irises. For the sunny part, purple and white prairie clovers (Dalea purpurea and D. candida), various phlox, more salvia, prairie grasses, and some sweet alyssum (which is tougher than its name implies) will fill the newly cleared space. If last year's additions move to the "creep" phase of the perennial cycle, "sleep, creep, leap," then the border will continue to make strides. "Finishing" this part of the garden is not what I intend or desire (because I don't believe a garden is ever finished). In 2010, I will fix that @$!# border.

4. Grow more vegetables. I've got the raised bed, I'm choosing the seeds, it's time to increase the edibles in this garden. People contributed wonderful advice during the seed giveaway contest, reminding me that there is no shortage of resources or support. All that monitoring of the sunlight in the southern portion of the yard will hopefully pay off, and I must remain diligent about watching for pests and diseases. In a bit of serendipitous timing, I've been working on an article about vegetable gardening, so I have no lack of familiarity with the subject. It's time. In 2010, I will grow more vegetables.

There are all sorts of other goals I want to accomplish in the new year, such as dividing a bunch of houseplants, chilling bulbs for forcing in October, establishing a second compost pile, moving some herbs to a different location, and planting halfway decent containers, but I know better than to resolve for more than I can handle. These four resolutions represent the most important changes needed in the garden this year. In 2010, I will accomplish them. What about you? What are your garden resolutions for 2010?


Diane said...

It never occurred to me to make gardening resolutions for 2010 but now I plan to! I think yours are ambitious but doable, exactly how resolutions should be. I also hope to dive into edible gardening this year, which may be a big disaster but hey, it's worth a shot, right? Can't wait to see which Japanese maple you choose! Happy New Year!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Yes, yes, a Japanese Maple - I'm so excited for you! (virtually jumping up & down) I don't make any resolutions because I'm too lazy to follow through. That didn't sound good. How about, I prefer to be spontaneous? Not that there's anything wrong with resolutions. I think they are great for other people, and yours are good ones.

Rose said...

Lucky you--free mulch!! This would have to be one of my gardening resolutions for this year, too; what a difference mulching has made in the garden, especially saving me time and energy in weeding. I'm so glad you picked a Japanese maple. Such gorgeous trees, I know you will be happy with it.

Actually I had thought about doing a post about resolutions, too, but something tells me I won't get around to doing it:) I do have many, but probably at the top of my list is to finally build an enclosure for my compost pile. I'm too embarrassed to even show it on my blog:)

rambleonrose said...

Diane--I agree that the vegetable garden could certainly end in disaster, but you're right, it's worth a shot! I figure containers have worked decently so far, why not expand the operation?

MMD--There's nothing wrong with spontaneity! Notice how I didn't make any earth-shattering resolutions to change my life, much for the same reason--my follow-through is not predictable.

Rose--I for one would love to read about your resolutions! And don't feel bad about the compost pile; mine is equally embarrassing and also doesn't make it on the blog too often for that reason! :) But as long as it's working you should be proud. Mine is still a half-decomposed and now frozen mess.

Gail said...

Rose, Excellent garden resolutions! I agree that the Japanese maple will look splendid in that spot...If I may be so bold...Give it plenty of room....more then you think, too! have a Happy new year! gail

garden girl said...

Happy New Year Rose!

I was secretly rooting for a Japanese Maple - looking forward to seeing which one you pick.

I've never been big on NY resolutions, but admire those who set new year goals, especially when they're realistic and attainable.

I was amazed how productive my little veggie garden was last year, and hope you and Diane will have similar successes with yours. You've definitely done your homework, and that really helps.

You are very lucky having such a convenient and free source of mulch!

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