New Year Resolutions for Gardeners
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Well, it is almost a new year and a new beginning for the garden. In the months of January and February, the weather is cooler and there is less work to be done. It is a great time to plan for the upcoming spring. As gardeners, there are steps that we can take to improve the environment and ecosystems that surround us. Consider adopting one or more of these resolutions for your garden in the New Year:
Choose plant varieties that are low maintenance and easy to grow at the coast. Figs, muscadine grapes, rabbiteye blueberries, and persimmons all grow well in New Hanover County. If you must grow pears, choose a variety that is resistant to fire blight (a common disease in our area) such as Seckel, Moonglow, Kieffer, or Magness. Avoid planting crops that will require a lot of pesticide sprays to produce a quality crop.
Incorporate fruit and vegetables into your landscape. Fruit trees can be a beautiful ornamental tree or shrub and small fruits and vegetables can be intermingled amongst your annuals and perennials. This helps to encourage diversity in the garden and native insects prefer that type of habitat. It also enhances the garden by providing a different texture to the landscape.
Plan to grow vegetables year round. In most coastal counties you can grow some sort of crop in the winter months. Row covers can be used to protect these crops from frost. Careful planning can provide you with a year-round harvest and reduce your grocery bill. Crop rotation is a must in our area. Stop by the Arboretum to see what we are growing this winter.
Commit to composting! Composting is a sustainable way to deal with garden waste and household food scraps that provides you with a valuable soil amendment and can reduce your fertilizer and pesticide applications. Adding compost to the soil increases the soils ability to hold water, thus improving plant growth and productivity.
Harvest, store and use your rainwater. Use cisterns or rain barrels to collect the water that runs off the roof – use this water first to irrigate your lawn, garden and container plantings.
Minimize your water needs. Improve the water holding capacity of your soil by adding organic matter. Mulch exposed soil in gardens and flowerbeds to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture. When designing new plantings, choose plants that will be drought tolerant once established. Some examples are as follows: crape myrtle, Chinese hollies, juniper, rosemary, thyme, and ornamental grasses.
Consider adding chickens, bees, or other small livestock to your yard. If you are up for the additional responsibility and commitment, chickens, ducks, guinea hens, rabbits or other small livestock help cycle nutrients in your garden. Carefully managed poultry can control insect pests and weeds while providing nitrogen and phosphorous to improve soil fertility. Bees pollinate many of our vegetable crops. The loss of native pollinators makes the efforts of beekeepers even more important.
Have fun! Gardening along the coast can be a challenge but by choosing the right plant for the right place you can be a successful gardener. When I first moved to the area I was still trying to grow things that I loved but they just never survived. I finally came to the conclusion that I had to forgo those beloved plants for plants that were better adapted to our climate.
Be innovative! This is a great time of year to grab a cup of coffee and pick up your favorite plant catalog. I find inspiration in garden magazines and I love to learn about the new varieties growers are introducing to the industry.
Whichever resolution you choose, I want to wish you and your garden a Happy New Year!