The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Gardeners’ New Year’s Resolutions

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

A new year. A "do over." I love gardening in Illinois. Every spring is a required "do over." The cold, gray days of winter are a perfect time to plan next year's garden while you can still remember last year's and are not yet caught up in the day-to-day garden chores.

Maybe you have decided to eat more veggies and exercise more in 2006. Gardening can help you with both resolutions and it's a lot more fun than slurping green alfalfa shakes and trudging along on a treadmill. Or maybe you have decided that in 2006 you will be a better gardener. So if you need one more new year's resolution, try one of these.

  1. Use more compost during planting to enrich the soil. Rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers to "feed" plants, use compost to "feed" the soil. Compost contains important plant nutrients, but also helps to improve soil structure and water retention. Check out the Landscape Recycling Center at 1210 East University in Urbana PH: 217-344-5323 for compost and mulch.
  2. Be more realistic about the amount of time available for gardening. Author and landscaper Janet Macunovich figured out just how much time she and her company workers were spending in landscape maintenance throughout the seasons. According to her book Caring For Perennials, perennial flowers require the most time per month compared to other landscape plants. Per 100 square feet lawns require on average 8 minutes a month (spring-10 minutes, summer – 5 minutes and fall – 10 minutes); trees and shrubs on average require 10 minutes a month (spring-20 minutes, summer- 5 minutes and fall-5 minutes); annual flowers require on average 20 minutes a month (spring – 25 minutes, summer – 15 minutes and fall – 20 minutes) and perennial flowers require 60 minutes a month on average (spring - 95 minutes, summer – 35 minutes and fall – 30 minutes). Plus most of us have a garden larger than 100 square feet so multiply the required time by the size of your garden. Does this mean I'm going to reduce the size my garden? Of course not, I get way too much enjoyment out of it even with all its "imperfections".
  3. On a similar note vow to take regular breaks or at least switch movements or activities every 15 minutes to save muscles and joints from the abuse of repetitive motions. Can you say carpal tunnel syndrome? You will be saying it to your doctor if you spend all day pruning without taking breaks.
  4. Encourage the good bugs by planting appropriate flowers such as alyssum and asters. You may not realize it but insect predators and parasites are helping you in the battle of the bad bugs. Learn what you can do to help them.
  5. Remove diseased plant parts. Many diseases and some insects will hang out on infected plants all winter only to infect new plant growth in the spring. Good sanitation goes a long way in preventing plant problems.
  6. Plant more herbs and use them in cooking. Generally herbs are easy to grow and beautiful in the landscape. Try growing a few annual herbs such as purple basil or 'Fernleaf' dill; or a few perennial herbs such as sage or oregano. You will be amazed how much better the taste is compared to dried herbs plus people will think you are quite the chef.
  7. Don't let weeds go to seed. "One year's seeding equals seven year's weeding."
  8. Use more native plants for their beauty and durability. Check out Grand Prairie Friends plant sale each May.
  9. Pet more bumble bees.
  10. Sniff more flowers. Did you know purple coneflowers have a fragrance?
  11. Enjoy gardening more. Sit on a garden bench every day. Ok maybe every week. Well, at least every month. Baby steps. Baby steps.

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