Just like everyone else, gardeners like to make New Year’s resolutions. They become a ritual just like cleaning up the garden in the spring. Alas, we also like to break these resolutions, which is why we need to make them every year. Someday we will succeed in fulfilling our vows. Maybe this year! Here are my resolutions for 2013:
1) Keep records. This will be especially important this year since it may be my last year in my old farmhouse. I need to remember what I planted, not only for my own edification, but to help new owners. I particularly want to take pictures so I can recall the beauty of the primroses and tulips in spring, the variety of daylilies in summer and the joy of the asters in the fall.
2) Give the plants sustenance. The mantra of organic gardeners is “feed the soil, not the plant.” This is undoubtedly the best way for most plants, especially vegetables, since you can amend the soil in those gardens every year before planting. It’s a bit harder when you goofed in the first place and your perennials are languishing in poor soil. Rather than dig it all up and start again, you can at least add some compost and mulch on top of the soil and scratch it in to help the poor plants. And add plenty of compost to the holes for new plants. Also plants in containers quickly absorb the nutrients in their confined quarters and need a liquid feed on a regular basis.
3) Be patient. Don’t start tomato plants inside in February. They will just get leggy and do poorly. Learn the optimum timing for starting seeds and follow a logical schedule. Master Gardener Ed Sourdiffe is giving a free plant clinic on seed starting on Jan. 26 at the Hadley Garden Center.
And don’t remove winter mulches too early even if we have a mild spring.
4) Prune in a timely manner. Most shrubs need pruning, if not annually then every few years. Timing is critical. Prune spring-flowering shrubs right after bloom — or at least by the Fourth of July. Otherwise you remove the flower buds for next year. A good rule with broad-leafed evergreens is also to finish pruning by July 4 to avoid stimulating late-season growth that may be killed by frost. If your trees need pruning for aesthetics or safety, seriously consider hiring a professional arborist. Licensed professionals know how to prune trees safely and properly. Climbing into a large tree with a chain saw can be dangerous. (I spent an incredible amount of money in 2012 on tree work so it’s just shrubs for this year.)
5) Pick flowers for inside. Grow annuals with long stems for bouquets. Select something each week to display on the dining room table. In winter it may be boxwood or holly or some other evergreen. A nosegay of primroses is a delight in the spring while Siberian iris, peonies and, of course, roses bring joy in the summer. Bring your garden inside for double enjoyment.
Those are just a few New Year’s resolutions to consider for 2013. Happy New Year!
LYMAN DOCENTS: Smith College Botanic Garden is looking for volunteers to lead tours for schoolchildren and adult groups in Lyman Plant House. Training will be held Jan. 16-18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. After training, volunteers will be able to assist conservatory staff by developing thematic tours, assisting with exhibitions and providing hospitality for events such as the annual Bulb Show as well as staffing the reception desk on weekends.
These sessions will be followed by additional monthly meetings and training tours. The training includes a history of the Botanic Garden; tours of conservatories; some basic botany and horticulture; commercial, medicinal and food plants of the Lyman Plant House; and how to guide visitors and school groups. In exchange for the training, volunteers are required to volunteer at the Botanic Garden for at least one full year and attend monthly meetings.
You may request a volunteer application by phone at 585-2742 or email at email@example.com, or download one from www.smith.edu/garden/Friends/volunteers.
GARDEN BOOK DISCUSSION: Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston offers a monthly discussion on gardens and gardening. The theme for this spring is “The World in Our Gardens/Gardens in the World.” The first meeting of 2013 is Jan. 12 and the book is Andrea Wulf’s “The Brother Gardeners,” a history of 17th- and 18th-century gardeners in America and Britain who exchanged plants, books and ideas. For more information call 508-869-6111, ext. 116, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WINTER CLINICS: The popular winter gardening clinics at the Hadley Garden Center, Route 9, Hadley, begin on Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. The first class is “Bird Feeding” with local expert Dan Ziomek. All clinics are free. Other topics for 2013 include seed starting, pruning, organic vegetable gardening and injury prevention for gardeners. Full schedules are available at the garden center.