The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Gardeners' New Year's Resolutions

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Thankfully the world didn't end on December 21. We get to plan for another year of gardening. A new year. I love gardening in Illinois. Every spring is a "do over". After last year's drought, I am ready for a "do over". The cold, gray days of winter are a perfect time to plan next year's garden.

Maybe you have decided to eat more veggies and exercise more in 2013. 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 2013 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, (if you are going for top performance) 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; trees and shrubs - 10 minutes a month; annual flowers - 20 minutes a month; and perennial flowers require 60 minutes a month on average.

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". But I won't be adding new ones anytime soon.

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 and pollinators 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. Attend Herb Day January 19, 2013 at Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Urbana. Contact Linda Harvey at 217-244-1693 or lharvey@illinois.edu.

8. Don't let weeds go to seed. "One year's seeding equals seven year's weeding."

9. Use more native plants for their beauty and durability. Check out Grand Prairie Friends plant sale each May.

10. Pet more bumble bees.

11. Sniff more flowers.

12. Enjoy more gardens. Sit on a garden bench every day. Ok maybe every week. Well, at least every month. Baby steps. Baby steps.

View Article Archive >>