Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Gardeners

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Gardeners — Home Lawn and Garden — Penn State Extension

You may be able to achieve some of your goals (such as living a simpler life, exercising and losing weight) by making gardening resolutions. It’s not too late because, after all, Chinese New Year is not until February 8. Here are ten great suggestions to help you choose:

  1. If you are not a gardener, become one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a moderate intensity level activity, such as gardening, for 2.5 hours each week can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, colon cancer and premature death. It is scientifically proven that gardening wards off depression: it is difficult not to enjoy life when surrounded by flowers, vegetables and the resulting wildlife they attract. In addition to culinary and health benefits, a garden increases property value and saves money. The question is not “Why garden?” but “Why not garden?” If you don’t have a yard, start by planting containers on your deck.
  2. Test your soil. Whether you have an established garden or are starting a new one this is a great way to begin the gardening year. Purchase a soil test kit from Penn State Extension for $9 and follow the instructions. Simply take a sample of your soil, send it to their lab for analysis and comply with the resulting recommendations. Your plants will thank you.
  3. Lessen the use of harmful products. Add one new sustainable gardening method, such as eliminating chemical fertilizers, to your routine to minimize negative effects on the environment. I add a layer of compost to each bed in the spring to improve the health of the soil and increase the bounty of flowers and vegetables. Resolve to make your own compost by turning kitchen scraps, leaves and yard waste into nutrient-rich material. Contact the Penn State Extension office for more information on how to make compost.
  4. Reduce your lawn area. Lawns are high-maintenance and not always environmentally friendly depending on how they are maintained. Rethink yours to reduce fuel consumption and emissions: lawnmowers and other power equipment pollute more than cars. Furthermore, the quest for the perfect lawn leads to high nitrates and other pesticides in our water supply. Replace some of your grass with shrubs, perennials and vegetables. In early spring, select an area and cover it with newspaper topped by compost or aged manure. It will be ready to plant after the last frost. I am not advocating a turf-less landscape, but we could all do with a little less lawn.
  5. Think herbs and veggies. If you haven’t done so before, plant herbs and use them in cooking. Try growing annual herbs such as basil or dill, or some perennial herbs like sage and oregano. Herbs add color and scent to the garden and they taste so much better than store-bought. Resolve to integrate vegetables into your landscape. You will need six hours or more of sunshine in your garden. Vegetables are easy to grow from seeds or transplants.

  6. Order seeds early. As the seed catalogs pile up on your coffee table, it’s time to inventory the seed packets you already have. Then make a plan for your 2016 vegetable garden, rotating the crops to minimize the buildup of soil-borne diseases. Order seeds early and you won’t have to accept substitutes on the order. Resist buying too many seeds and plants – this is a difficult one for me. You may not need all the seeds in a packet, so it’s a good idea to split them with a neighbor or friend. If you are new to starting vegetables or annuals from seed, contact the Penn State Extension office for information.
  7. Encourage good bugs. Insect predators and parasites help you in the battle of the bad bugs, so plant flowers that will attract them. To entice lacewings, ladybugs and hoverflies, for example, plant yarrow, dill, butterfly weed, feverfew, English lavender, and sweet alyssum. The larvae of these good bugs destroy aphids and other pests. (Adult ladybugs eat pests, but their larvae eat more.)
  8. Save your muscles and joints. Resolve to save your muscles and joints from the abuse of repetitive motions by taking regular breaks or switch movements every 15 minutes or so. In my efforts to simplify gardening tasks I try to be realistic about what I can do: accepting imperfections and welcoming help. Labor-saving techniques include limiting the number of shrubs that need pruning, using soaker hoses, weeding when the soil is moist, selecting disease-resistant plants, buying ergonomic gardening tools, and choosing long-blooming perennials that don’t need deadheading.
  9. Take a class. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners across the state are planning an interesting year of learning opportunities. Look for press releases in your local newspapers or call one of the Penn State Extension offices in early spring for more information.
  10. Enjoy! Finally, resolve to enjoy your garden more this year by taking regular walks around it, petting more bumble bees, and sniffing more flowers. I plan to sit on a garden bench more often and spend time cultivating gratitude for all my blessings.

Wishing you a very happy new gardening year!

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