Happy New Year! At the beginning of January we typically think through what we plan to do better in the coming twelve months in all aspects of our lives, whether that’s reading more books or committing to a fitness program or eating healthy. Of course we don’t always follow through, but it’s still worth considering what might make our lives better–including our gardening lives! Here’s just a snippet of what I’m focusing on in 2020.
- Getting a handle on the mess in the shed. We cleaned out the Big Shed last summer, a major project, but I never got around to attacking what I would call the Pot Shed if that didn’t sound suspicious (it’s really the Pot, Tray, and Plant Support Shed). I did shove things around at the last minute so I could actually walk in and reach the two giant storage bins full of plastic pots. What you see in the photo sits on top of that (it was neater, I swear, but the squirrels get in and knock things over). I have way too many plastic pots. Not that I buy them; they come with the plants I buy, and I feel like I have to keep them. I do reuse them for growing seedlings, but not all of them. It’s time to sort through the mess and get rid of what I will never use. Nursery pots are recyclable; also Master Gardeners use them for projects; also there is Freecycle. I would also like to use less plastic overall, so I’ll be considering ways to do that.
- Growing the second shift. Speaking of starting seedlings–it’s occurred to me in the last couple of years that with the increase in fungal diseases due to wet spring weather it might be worth staggering the planting of summer seedlings, especially tomatoes and peppers. That is, starting some seeds at the usual time, and waiting on others until a month or two later, so that those younger seedlings can be swapped in for those that succumb to disease, or can take the place of spring crops that don’t give up until summer. We have a long growing season and often harvest summer crops into October, assuming they survive their challenges. I already stagger planting of squash and cucumbers, which are often killed by pests, and basil, which has been subject to downy mildew (though resistant cultivars are now available!). It’s worth trying to be flexible about other plants as well.
- Using the harvest; getting my gift game going. Apologies to those of you who are doing Drynuary, but I’m still reveling in the awesomeness of my husband having produced liqueurs from my bush cherries and black currants. The cherries also went into beer the previous year. We’ll be doing more of this (honestly I would rather have these than jam). They make grand gifts. I also managed to gift family and friends with jars of dried rosemary, since I have brought some plants through a couple of winters and there was a lot to harvest. (Good drainage is the secret.) But did I think about starting to dry the rosemary, or any other herbs, earlier than about September? No. This year, I’ll keep the dehydrator going through the season, and have lots to give away. I also hope to do more with herbal teas, and herbs and flowers and fruits added to green and black tea, and roselle hibiscus for Jamaican sorrel. Also will get back to the infused vinegars (chive blossom and pineapple sage worked for me before).
- Speaking up about climate change. Especially with my MG hat on, I plan to insert the realities of our climate crisis into formal and informal conversations. We all need to do what we can to make the effects less terrible with preventive action; we also need to get ready for what we can’t prevent. Specifically, in this context, how to react to new weather patterns and make our gardens more resilient, how to conserve resources, how to keep our soil healthy and help to sequester carbon in it. As gardeners, we can be an important part of what will have to be a very large effort. It’s hard to think about, but we do have to.
- Making room for whimsy. I want more fun things in my garden, more art, more clever design elements. It may take another year of tidying things up before I get there, but that’s the goal.
That’s only part of what I want to get done; the thing about resolutions is if you list them all, they look overwhelming and you can’t get started. There are several more large piles of arborist wood chips in my future that will need to be moved by wheelbarrow loads to their weed-smothering goal; there are major renovations of several garden beds; there are lots of native plants and lots of vegetable seedlings to go in the ground. I hope most of it will happen, but you never know what the year will bring.
What are your resolutions for your 2020 garden?
By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener