The end of December is a time for resolutions, reviews and renewals so resolve to start a garden notebook, mark up your calendar or take more garden photos if you want to chart the improvements and failures of your gardening experiments.
Here’s a few ideas for ways to make 2013 a celebration of all things green and growing:
1. Resolve to start growing your own food.
This one act can be as simple as buying a potted rosemary plant for the kitchen counter and using more fresh herbs in your everyday life. Here in Western Washington it is simple to grow cool season crops like lettuce, peas, cabbage, kale and Swiss chard. You don’t even need a patch of ground as many edibles do just as good in pots as they do in the ground. Beginners should start with cherry tomatoes, basil, and zucchini.
2. Resolve to leave the clippings on the lawn.
In our cool climate leaving the grass clippings to decay on the lawn will help improve the water-holding capacity of the soil by adding organic matter and add nitrogen by returning green material to the soil. The trick is you must mow more often and choose a mulching mower so that the clippings are tiny enough to slip in between the blades of grass. Mowing your lawn every 7 days during the growing season fits in nicely with the most popular of all New Year’s resolution: The vow to loose weight and get more exercise.
3. Resolve to add more houseplants to clean your indoor air.
We all need plants to breathe easier so this winter replace your holiday ornaments with a few green and growing plants known to absorb and clean indoor pollutants. I vote for the attractive and hard-to-kill peace lily or spathiphyllum because this houseplant adapts to low light and will bloom with white, flag-like spaths or leaf bracts. If you go away for a few weeks and your peace lily looks limp and dead on your return, cut it back, add some water and it will revive and keep growing. Other air cleaning houseplants to add to your home include heart leaf philodendrons, English ivy, spider plants, dracaena and snake plant.
4. Resolve to cut back on your garbage — start a compost pile.
You don’t need a lot of room to recycle a lot of garbage. Just find a four foot space on the ground and dig in. Set aside a pile of soil and layer your kitchen waste and pruning crumbs into the hole, covering with a few shovels of the soil from the nearby pile. Composting is as easy as layering green material (vegetable trimmings, grass clippings, faded flower blooms) with brown material (soil, sawdust, brown leaves) then letting it sit and rot. In six months or less you’ll have compost.
5. Resolve to rebel from convention — and bring back the bees.
Becoming a flamboyant, rebellious and adventurous gardener has many benefits but the latest buzz is about what your experiments in growing can do for the birds, bees and the butterflies. The more diverse the plant material we grow in our gardens the more likely our local wild life will survive. This year, promise to try a new climbing vine, plant a tree, add more perennials and buy a blooming baskets filled with flowers you’ve never grown before. We need gardens full of early bloomers, late bloomers, trees, shrubs, native plants and exotic new comers that will provide nectar for bees, homes for birds and foliage for the caterpillars that turn into butterflies and moths.
Life began in a garden, so celebrate the New Year by resolving to garden.
Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.