Arts & Leisure Gardening

Ask a Master Gardener: New Year’s resolutions

A good New Year’s resolution is to plant more pollinator-friendly plants, such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), to provide important food and habitat for the monarch butterfly and other species. photo / Bonnie Kirn Donahue

As we head into winter, you may find yourself thinking about the warmth of summer and getting back into the garden again. This daydreaming is a good opportunity to reflect on the past growing season and set goals for next year’s garden by making some New Year’s resolutions.

Here are 10 gardening resolutions to inspire you to create your own list.

1: Spend time reflecting on the gardening season that has just passed, and take notes on what went well, what didn’t work and what you’d like to do differently going forward.

2: Do some research in preparation for the next growing season. Did you struggle with blighted tomatoes or wish you had a more consistent lettuce crop throughout the summer? Did your turnip leaves have tiny holes, but the turnip roots were healthy? A quick internet search including keywords for your topic and “cooperative extension” will result in many options to review. Focus your research on resources from your region or from states that share similar climates.

3: Take advantage of the resources available through the University of Vermont Extension Master Gardening Program. Check out its Gardening Resources page (go.uvm.edu/garden-resources), which includes helpful articles and information about upcoming events, courses, classes and volunteer opportunities.

4: When ordering seeds and plants, choose a few new varieties to try, such as an heirloom vegetable or flower or unusual native grass or perennial.

5: Incorporate more pollinator-friendly plants, such as milkweed, which has beautiful flowers and provides important food and habitat for the monarch butterfly, a species in decline. If milkweed doesn’t grow naturally in your garden or on your property, you can buy milkweed plants or seeds from local greenhouses that sell native plants.

6: Garden sustainably by conserving water with use of a drip irrigation system or rain barrel to collect water. Manage pests by using IPM — integrated pest management — techniques instead of relying on dusts, sprays and other pesticides. The latter practice also protects bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

7: Start a compost pile and be diligent about turning it over frequently to ensure a good supply of organic compost to naturally enrich and feed the soil in your garden.

8: Keep weeds under control by pulling when small and mulching with straw or other organic mulches, a practice that also reduces water loss.

9: Leave perennials that have strong stem structures, attractive seed heads or interesting colors in your garden through the winter instead of cutting these back. In addition to aesthetics, these provide seeds for birds and habitats for insects, such as bees that may overwinter in the stems.

10: Spend time enjoying your garden next summer. Stop and smell the flowers. Observe butterflies and caterpillars, and check plants for chrysalises to watch them change into moths or butterflies.

While your garden is tucked away for the winter, take time to dream of warmer weather and make some resolutions to have your best garden yet in 2022.

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Bonnie Kirn Donahue is a UVM Extension Master Gardener and landscape designer from central Vermont.

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