Saturday, January 7, 2012

Garden Resolutions for 2012

A belated Happy New Year, Faithful Readers.  Winter is here.  There may not be snow such as we had in that photo I took back in October,  but there sure is lots of cold, down in the teens most days. Time to curl up by the fire with that pile of seed catalogs.

Have you decided which New Year’s resolutions you will try to keep in 2012? I read an article somewhere claiming that most folks break their resolutions before the New Year is a month old.  I fit right into that category, but this column is about gardening resolutions so, as my husband was fond of saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  Garden resolutions are a snap compared to deciding to give up chocolate or gin or whatever your favorite indulgence is.

The first suggestion I have is about all those seed catalogs.  "Don’t let your eyes get bigger than your stomach."  That expression is best applied to food, so let's say "Don't let your dreams become bigger than your garden.  It’s very easy to get carried away by your enthusiasm when you’re ordering. You can daydream about next summer’s garden, but when you’re finally ready to fill in the order blank, keep it to a manageable size.

It’s easy to forget the aches and pains and weeds of summer, as you study Burpee’s glossy pages and Park’s perfect pictures. If you’re young and fit and have plenty of time to garden you can indulge, but if, like me, you feel as if your joints need a shot of WD40 each morning, it’s wise to limit your choices.  The photo below of ten buckets of weeds is just to remind you of the weed problem we all faced last summer.

Try to include at least one new item in your order.  So often we gardeners slip into a rut, sticking to the tried and true we’ve always grown, so this year put a little adventure into your order. Try something different.  Have you ever grown parsnips? This lowly vegetable tastes totally different when harvested straight from the garden instead of from the supermarket.  Compare it to a bored overfed tiger behind bars at the zoo as opposed to the hungry beast rippling through the jungles of India.

Parsnips are a winter vegetable, their roots full of carbohydrates which like Brussell sprouts, don’t convert to sugar until cold weather, so you need to mulch the row in the fall and pull a few after there’s been a good frost or two, then harvest the rest in early spring before their tops begin to grow.

It’s taking me hours to decide what plants I want this year as I’m trying to follow Mrs. Eddison’s suggestion, replacing some undesirable perennials with easy-care shrubs. I’d like to get one or two hydrangeas, but being unfamiliar with all the new varieties I’m having trouble. Fine Gardening magazine had a wonderful article on these shrubs and I planned to use one of their photographs for today's column, but I couldn't find my copy.  The one below is from a book by Michael Dirr on nothing but hydrangeas.

I  can easily eliminate the hydrangeas that are too tall  or have lavender, purple or blue flowers, or bloom so tightly packed they look like tennis balls  but there must be 20 varieties with lacy panicles in soft pink or white. 

Bloom time also offers many choices - late spring to early fall, midsummer to late fall, and everything in between.  If any of you have recommendations, do send my an email.  If I ever make up my mind about  these hydrangeas, I still need to face choosing some hostas and some ornamental grasses for the perennial border.  And you know how many species of these plants there are.   

Oh  dear, I guess I only have time for one more Garden Resolution, but it's a one shot job and a very practical one.  Buy a can of orange spray paint and paint all your trowel handles bright orange so you can find them when they’ve been left out in the garden.

I own at least six trowels and yet I sometimes can't lay my hands on even one. Possibly you're the type of gardener who carefully puts away her tools, but I'm always leaving my trowels behind as I jump from one garden project to another.

Wait until there’s been a snowstorm, then go out and dig your trowels into the snow so you can spray their handles easily. And while you're at it,  you could spray other tools you use. Next summer you’ll be delighted to spot them quickly, even if you’ve dumped a trowel in the compost pile along with a pile of weeds by mistake.

These resolutions are pretty easy to accomplish.  You’ll notice that I didn’t suggest you resolve to weed the vegetable garden every three days from June until October or dead-head the flower bed every day.  I’ll end with one important resolution that we all should follow.  Enjoy your garden every day you’re in it, no matter what hoops Mother Nature makes you jump through.   Happy New Year!


  1. Carol from LitchfieldJanuary 7, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    Love your idea of painting the trowel handles. What an easy solution to lost trowels! Do keep us posted on possible hydrangeas. I'm interested.

  2. Spray paint - great idea! Can I add my glasses and cell phone to the list? And doing it in the snow is much better than trying to keep the paint, Snow!

  3. Painting the trowels is a brilliantly simple solution to a pesky problem. I found a trowel this summer that went missing about 5 years ago. The wooden handle had mostly rotted away, but that was easy to fix. Now, if it had only been orange! I think the new plant this year will be 'Flower Sprouts' (Johnny's, page 14) - a cross between brussels sprouts and kale. I can't wait, as I love BOTH those veggies. My only new year's resolution for years has been to make no resolutions!

  4. fiddle - wrote you a nice comment and the software ate it. Johnny's Selected Seeds - p. 14: cross between Kale and Brussels Sprouts. Can't wait to try it!