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A Gardener's Resolutions 

click to enlarge Put in some native plants, like California flannelbush, for the birds and bees.


Put in some native plants, like California flannelbush, for the birds and bees.

Now that it's a new year, I'm sure some of you have made resolutions. It's a thing that we humans like to do. It's the start of a new time increment, so we get a do-over, I guess. Perhaps you're resolving to lose those 20 COVID pounds or start exercising more. Call your mother every day; eat one less cookie each day. Maybe you've promised to do these things, or maybe you've given up because you're tired and overwhelmed and cookies are wonderful and procrastination is the new way of being.

I speak for myself, of course. You may be totally motivated to do All the Things. But it's never a bad idea to try to do something new and different, regardless of what the calendar says.

To that end, I've made a list of the things to try out for your New Year's resolutions. I'll even be trying a few of these myself.

Plant a garden. If you've never had a garden, this is the year. It doesn't have to be huge or even medium. It can be something as simple as a six-pack of lettuce in a large pot on your balcony. Or plant a fruit tree. Even if you have a very small space, you can still plant a dwarf fruit tree. They rarely get any taller than 4 feet.

Did you know bare-root season is nearly here? Local nurseries will be getting bare-root trees, vines, roses and berry canes in stock very soon. They're generally less expensive than the trees/roses/berries sold in pots. Plus, there's a wide variety of cultivars available, especially when the plants first arrive. If you're uncertain about what varieties will do best in your own micro-climate, be sure and ask the friendly folks who work at the nursery, as they are a wealth of information. If you do buy bare-root, make sure you "heel them in" when you get them home, unless you plan on planting them immediately. Heeling in means tucking those bare roots into some soil so they stay moist until it's time to put them in the ground. And speaking of planting things right away ....

Put those plants in the ground when you bring them home. I'm an expert at buying plants, bringing them home and watering them for months on end until they finally die in their little 4-inch pots. Don't be like me. Plant those babies within a few days of bringing them home, if the weather is agreeable.

Get ahead of the weeds. Like, now. Sure, the best time to take care of those little weed sprouts was a month ago but who's counting? When we've had a few dry days, now that we're finally getting an honest rainy/snowy winter, get out there and pull those weeds, then mulch heavily so they don't make a comeback in, oh, three weeks. If you're weeding large beds, make sure you don't step on all the soil, as this will compact it and make it far less friendly for planting in the spring. Weed seedlings love this weather. All that lovely rainfall, then a warm day here and there. Take care of them now and you'll be a lot happier come March and April.

Clean up all those scattered pots and 6-packs that have blown all over the garden and yard from the many windy days we've had recently. Same goes for those empty soil bags that you left out because you'd "get to them eventually."

Think about relocating plants that aren't doing quite as well as you thought they would when you planted them a couple years ago. Perhaps they're not getting enough sunlight or they're in a damp area, and you can tell that they're struggling. You can move plants and shrubs and even smaller trees, as long as you're careful to get the entire root ball. Fall and winter are the best times to relocate plants and trees, but again, make sure we've had at least three to four days of dry weather, otherwise you can compact the soil and cause more problems than you had before.

Scatter some wildflower seeds in an area that looks sad. Grass is great, but it doesn't feed the local wildlife or birds or bees, and if you scatter the right mix for your climate, you'll be rewarded with flowers year after year as they re-seed.

Fix those fences. If you're fortunate to live in an area where the deer are abundant, you know eventually, Bambi will figure out a way to get into your garden, orchard or yard, where all of the best tender shoots are growing. This is the time to figure out where the breaches are and fix them before the new crop of deer learn where the buffet is.

Plant a few (or many) native plants. Native plants do well in our climate because this is where they've grown for thousands of years. Plus, the birds and bees depend on our native plants, as they often bloom when other pretty plants aren't doing diddly squat. The North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society holds several plant sales throughout the year, so hit 'em up.

Plant an extra row of veggies for your local Little Free Pantry or food bank. The folks who run these food banks love to get the surplus from local gardens and everyone needs to eat, so why not share with folks who don't have the space, time or money to plant some veggies?

Finally, if you've done even a few of these resolutions, make sure that you take time to just sit and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Grab a cup of tea or a refreshing adult beverage, and take a load off at the end of the day. This last resolution is definitely one I plan to do more of in the new year.

Julia Graham-Whitt (she/her) is owner and operator of the landscaping business Two Green Thumbs.

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