Garden Variety: Resolutions for gardeners

The arrival of the new year means resolutions for personal improvement for many people. For gardeners, the focus might go to gardening practices. Since the middle of winter can be a difficult time to remember the tribulations of garden season, here are some suggestions to get your resolutions on the right path.

Resolve to visit more public gardens for inspiration and enjoyment. The Lawrence Rotary Arboretum, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the Lawrence Union Pacific Depot have landscape gardens that especially offer inspiration. Powell Gardens, Kauffman Memorial Garden, Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Loose Park Rose Garden are a short trip away in the Kansas City Metro Area. Topeka offers the Ted Ensley Gardens, the botanic garden at Ward-Meade Park, and the Reinisch Rose Gardens. For day or weekend trips, consider Botanica in Wichita, Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, and Missouri Botanic Garden in St. Louis.

Resolve to continue learning about gardening. Go to a gardening class. The Master Gardeners host many free ones and some local garden centers have hosted gardening classes in past springs. Pick up a book about a new-to-you gardening practice. Use a little caution with online resources as advice on soil, water, and plant types varies greatly from region to region.

Resolve to be proactive about large tree maintenance. Sure, you can wait for a windy day or a storm to bring that big broken limb the rest of the way down, but you could also get on an arborist’s schedule to get it removed now. The same goes for large dead branches still in the tree. You get piece of mind, and the tree gets the opportunity to close off the wound.

Resolve to take better care of tools. Sharpen pruners and mower blades before the season starts. Clean soil from shovels and rakes every time you use them, and rub wooden handles down every year with boiled linseed oil. Change the oil in the mower before the grass starts growing again.

Resolve to plant more plants for pollinators. Yes, planting for pollinators is trendy but has favorable outcomes in mind. Look for suggestions for this area, check with local garden centers, and visit the Monarch Watch Open House and plant sale in the spring.

Resolve to only purchase plants with a designated planting space in mind. Spur-of-the-moment impulse purchases (even when on sale) usually end up sitting out back while you try to find a spot to in which to squeeze them into the landscape, die from neglect while waiting for a home, and/or get planted in a less than ideal location for them. New plants are great – but look at the landscape or garden before you shop and determine where you have room for something new.

Consider your ultimate gardening goals, and resolve to keep them in mind throughout the year. Are you gardening to relieve stress, connect with nature, produce your own food, enjoy beautiful flowers, share the magic of gardening with children, create curb appeal, create a peaceful and enjoying space, or other reasons? Make a short list and hang it somewhere you can see it regularly. Then, if the weeds, the watering, the mowing, and other garden tasks ever seem like too much, you can remember why you started.

— Jennifer Smith is a former horticulture extension agent for K-State Research and Extension and horticulturist for Lawrence Parks and Recreation.