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?