New Year Garden Resolutions

With a New Year knocking at the door, many folks are examining their lives and events of 2010, often resulting in making resolutions to do better. It’s not a bad idea to look back a little at your 2010 garden and landscape and consider what could be different or better.

Let me suggest a few resolutions to add to the several you probably already have on your list. First, keep a garden journal. I have tried this in the past, and often never make it through to the end of the year. Yet, I frequently wish I had records, such as when certain plants, like different bulbs, daylilies, and other flowering plants bloomed every year; what named varieties of bedding and vegetable plants worked well and what failed; dates I planted trees and shrubs; and when and how much I have limed my lawn. A monthly garden journal book designed for such record taking would encourage regular note taking.

Many gardeners use a yearly calendar for jotting down notes. Smith County Master Gardeners created the 2011 Northeast Texas Gardening Guide & Calendar which can be used for such a purpose, plus it gives tips and ideas for each month. They are available at several area retail outlets and the Smith Co. AgriLife Extension office. For more information, go to the Master Gardeners web site.

Another resolution is to grow some of your own vegetables this year, or if you already grow your own, try some new types or varieties. If you don’t have enough sun in your yard, try a few potted vegetables on a sunny patio or other spot in the yard.

Did some of your garden vegetables or flowers not grow very well this summer or fall? It could be the soil. East Texas soils, and also potting soils, can be very acidic, which is not ideal for many vegetables and flowers. Adjusting the pH of the soil is pretty simple, but, you really cannot and should not guess whether or not to add lime. Resolve to get your soil tested! It’s simple and inexpensive (just $10). You can pick up soil testing information from every AgriLife Extension county office, or download the information and form the Texas A&M Soil Testing Lab at soiltesting.tamu.edu.

How was your summer electric bill? Resolve to bring it down with some strategically placed shade trees. Winter time is a prefect time to buy and plant trees. If you are a Tylerite, and you do plant one or more trees, be sure to register them at the Mayor’s Tree Tyler Initiative web site (cityoftyler.org).  The goal is to see 5000 trees planted throughout Tyler by 2015.

How was your water bill this summer and fall? Recurring spells of drought are a fact of life, and many garden plants require occasional to frequent watering to stay alive, not to mention maintain health and vigor. Resolve to save money and plants by having a more Earth-Kind yard. Start by looking at the design of your landscape. Select and grow plants that are the most water-efficient. Group plants by their water needs, so you are not overwatering one type while at the same time keeping another barely alive, all in the same area.

Install water-efficient irrigation systems for the lawn and garden. Advanced technologies are available such as turning off sprinkler systems when it rains, and drip systems that deliver precise amounts to shrubs, flowers and vegetables without waste.

What did you do with all of those leaves that fell this winter? Rake them and send them off the landfill? Resolve to put them to use in your own yard. Shredded leaves make great mulching material, and it is free composting material that can be used to improve the soil after they break down.

You can get help for several of these resolutions at the Texas AgriLife Extension’s Earth-Kind web site (earthkind.tamu.edu).  There are a series of short articles, and videos on several subjects that will help you protect the environment while maximizing your gardening effort and expenditures. I suggest you take the Earth-Kind Challenge to see how Earth-Kind your yard is, and learn ways to improve your gardening efforts. Be sure to also complete the online evaluation form.

I wish you a Happy New Year, full of blooms and fruit.

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