We are about two weeks into the new year, and many New Year’s resolutions are already in shambles. I’ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions because they are usually unrealistic. More often than not, they set us up for failure.
When it comes to making resolutions about gardening, we would be far better off setting a few realistic gardening goals instead. Then at year’s end, if we have made progress toward reaching our goals, we can look back at our gardening year as being successful. And there’s always the following year to continue working toward completing our goals. Fortunately, we still have plenty of time to think about selecting new goals before it’s time to get down and dirty working in our gardens.
Following are a few ideas for goals for gardening that you might consider, or modify to fit your needs. Some are geared for the novice gardeners, others are for veteran gardeners and some are for both. Whichever category you fall into, you are most likely to think of many other goals that better fit your gardening interests than those the following:
• If this will be your first year to garden, your first goal should be to decide what sort of gardening you want to do: vegetable gardening, growing ornamentals or both. Next, check out several gardening books from the library that cover gardening basics and study them. Above all, start small, otherwise you will likely be overwhelmed and decide to throw in the trowel by the time hordes of weeds and the heat of summer arrive.
• Consider setting a goal to work toward gardening sustainably. This simply means using gardening methods that will leave your little patch of the Earth with uncontaminated, fertile soil for the next generation to garden. Among other things, gardening sustainably means using as few non-renewable resources in your gardening as possible, particularly synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are derived primarily from non-renewable petroleum and natural gas.
• Work to build up an army of native insect parasites and predators to do the work synthetic pesticides can’t accomplish without harming the Earth. If you find that you must use a pesticide, use an organic one such as neam oil, Bt, or insecticidal soap.
• If you are a veteran gardener, you may be stuck in a rut using the same dependable annuals, perennials and vegetables in your gardens year after year. Consider a goal to try something new in your garden this year. For ornamentals, check out several mail-order catalogs to find some of the newer varieties widely available that interest you. Then take a trip to a nearby well-stocked local nursery or garden center for your actual shopping. There’s nothing like seeing the actual plants you purchase instead of purchasing plants sight unseen from some a far away mail-order nursery. Also peruse the seed racks and discover some vegetables you have never grown — perhaps leeks, black eyed peas, eggplant or a novelty such as peanuts.
• Many of us have one or more never-do-well perennials or shrubs that we have been babying along year after year without good results. This is the year to set a goal for getting rid of these hanger-ons. In a year or two, you will be glad you replaced these living-dead zombies with healthy plants that perform up to your expectations.
• Set a goal to share some of your garden bounty with others. If growing beautiful flowers is your passion, why not regularly take bouquets to friends who are home-bound? Also consider delivering a bouquet a week to a nursing home resident who seldom has visitors.
• If you are a vegetable gardener, share your bounty with friends who can no longer garden. But first find out what kinds of fruits and vegetables they like so that you don’t burden them with ones they will never use.
• Also keep in mind the homeless and others who can’t afford to buy fresh produce. The Union Gospel Mission feeds many, many of these folks every day of the year, and the mission can always put your garden surplus produce to good use. Food banks have been hard pressed in recent years to meet the needs of many economically disadvantaged families. Northwest Harvest needs lots of garden produce (ones with a longer shelf life than lettuce and berries) to keep food banks up and down our Valley well supplied.
• Set a goal to improve your gardening techniques by taking local garden tours this year. Yakima County Master Gardeners has a wonderful demonstration garden located just south of the Red Barn at the Ahtanum Youth Park. Plan to tour their garden at different times during the garden season. This garden is actually made up of a number of different kinds of gardens, all which you will enjoy and discover a lot of great gardening ideas. Feel free to ask questions of the gardeners at work as you take a self-guided tour through these innovative gardens.
• The Yakima Area Arboretum’s Garden Tour, a fundraiser for the arboretum, is an annual tour of home gardens in the Yakima, West Valley and Selah areas that features five different gardens each year. What these gardens have in common is each one is exceptional, and they offer a ton of ideas you can implement or modify for use in your own garden. This year’s garden tour will be June 22. For more information and tickets, call the arboretum at 509-248-7337.
These are my suggestions of goals that are actually intended just to get you thinking about setting your own gardening goals for 2013. Start now by jotting down your own ideas as they come to you over the next several weeks. During February prioritize them and finalize your goals. Select only a handful of goals to work on during this year’s gardening. Post your goals in a conspicuous place, such as your garden shed, to remind you of the things you most want to accomplish this year in your garden.
• Freelance gardening columnist Jim McLain can be reached at 509-697-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.