It is a well-worn trend to start any new year with resolutions: things we want to do, should do, and even some bad habits we want to break…
It is all for the sake of improvement. For the home landscape, we can make and carry out resolutions to improve our yards and gardens.
Here are ten resolutions for your Garden this year:
1. Test your soil. Your growing success or failure depends on the quality of your soil. If you do a soil test, you will know the pH and nutrient levels of your soil, and you can take steps to correct any deficiencies. Your garden will thank you. Penn State Extension has soil test kits for purchase in county offices.
2. Compost. This is nature’s recycling program. Take your grass clippings, fallen leaves, and spent healthy plant material, and turn it into a free amendment for which your soil will thank you with increased yields. Finished compost contains natural microorganisms that benefit the soil and your plants. In addition, you save time by not bagging your yard wastes that take up limited landfill space.
3. Use fewer chemicals. Before reaching for a spray or powder, know what the problem is. Sometimes a low level of disease can be tolerated without the use of chemicals. Remember also that just because a product is labeled organic, that does not mean it is harmless. Any pesticide, regardless of its origin, is potentially hazardous. Pyrethrin, a common and popular insecticide, will kill bad bugs, but also good ones like honey bees. Please read the label!
4. Plant natives. Choose perennials suited for your garden conditions. Native plants are tolerant of our weather changes, soil conditions, and pests. Most are not invasive, so they will live in reasonable balance with the other plants in your landscape. There are trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, and flowering annuals from which you can choose at your local garden center. Your local county Extension office can help you with lists of suitable native plants.
5. Plant for pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects depend on your garden for sustenance. For them, it can be feast or famine. Many native plants are great for pollinators too. Besides plants, pollinators need host plants, a source of water, and shelter. Visit the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research for more information.
6. Learn to identify insects. You see all sorts of bugs around your garden. Can you tell the difference between a nuisance and a beneficial insect? Some may be doing damage, while other bugs are keeping the bad ones in check. Be sure, if you are going to use a pesticide, that you identify the insect first, and decide if it is causing damage or if it is a beneficial insect helping you. Your local county Extension office can help you with insect identification.
7. Plant extra to give away. Plan ahead to grow some extra vegetables for a food pantry. There always seems to be an abundance of fresh produce and hungry people. Think about finding and helping someone in need. Giving something from your garden, or dividing a perennial to share with a neighbor, is a great way to make lasting friends. Or Consider Growing and Giving to Philabundance!
8. Plant some flowers in your garden for cutting. You can have fresh flowers on your table just about every day during the summer. Give them as a gift to brighten someone’s day. You will be amazed at how much of a boost you get from a beautiful bouquet that you grew yourself.
9. Cut your grass a little higher. Many homeowners mow their turf too short. Generally, two and half to three inches is the optimum height for a lawn. Mowing at this height benefits the roots by keeping them cool and crowds out the weeds. You mow less often, so you win too. Remember to let the clippings lay. They will break down easily and are a great source of nitrogen for the soil. If you can’t leave them on the lawn, compost them instead of sending them to the landfill.
10. Learn something new. Whether you want to educate yourself on a new plant variety, an emerging gardening trend, or a new gardening technique, a vast array of resources and reliable information is available to help you. The Penn State Extension Master Gardeners in your or a neighboring county have plenty of learning opportunities coming up.