13 New Year’s resolutions for gardeners (Garden column #1334)

I first hit the ski slopes when I was five years old. Well, sort of. It was common back then to spend a year or two on the Bunny Slopes. More like hanging onto the rope for dear life in order to get to the top of the hill only to snowplow down in great, sweeping, and demoralizing arcs.

By the end of the day, my arms felt as if they were being pulled out of their sockets, my gloves shredded.

One day, as I sat next to Mom as we dined on hamburgers at the main lodge, I told her I’d had enough of rope-tows.

“Can I go on the chairlift?”
I said. “I’m scared to get on one, though.”

She paused a moment and sipped her coffee. “Sweetie, if you don’t try, the answer is always no.”

Well, it felt like a heavy-handed answer at the time, but she was right.

And years later, I came across something else to match Mom’s wisdom from Crystal Mountain:

If I don’t have a goal to shoot for, I’m more likely to miss the target.

[Hi, it’s Marion. This article was originally published in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the hometown newspaper for Kodiak, Alaska. Go here to access the archive page for the list of my past columns, written each week since 1986].

So as you lean into 2022, think of a goal you’d like to accomplish and give it your best.

That’s right. Give it your best. I call it my “bean theory“:

If all you can find for dinner is a can of beans, then that’s the best you can do.

As promised, here are my 13 New Year’s resolutions and, as loyal readers know, they address more than gardening.

13 New Year’s resolutions for true-blue gardeners

1. First of all, get thee outside. Put on your grippers. Grab walking sticks. Stroll around your neighborhood or favorite pard. Breathe fresh air and feel alive. Remember what REI championed years ago on Black Friday? They closed all 143 stores to encourage friends and family to spend time outdoors as part of their #optoutside campaign.

2. Grow an extra row of vegetables for friends or families in need.

3. Keep a scrapbook or photo journal of your garden. It’s easy these days: Doodle and draw on an artist’s sketchpad or set up a special folder on your smartphone. I prefer the old-fashioned pencil, pen and colored pencils. As the saying goes, what gets written, gets remembered.

4. Don’t be afraid of failure and, at the same time, have more faith in plants.

According to Amy Penington, author of Apartment Gardening, “Plants want to survive and live. They will go to great lengths to make sure their genetic strain lives on. They don’t need constant monitoring, they just need a helper.”

5. If you don’t have room to garden, grow salad greens in a halibut tub or sign up for a community garden plot through the Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District. Growing safe healthy food and learning how to be more sustainable are the top two reasons given by local growers as to why they garden.

6. Resolve to feed your plants a healthy diet. Add mulch (compost, leaves, seasoned manure, seaweed) to your raised beds where it will improve soil nutrition and texture without the need for chemical fertilizers.

7. And along the same lines, before you reach for fungicides and herbicides, promise to learn what disease or insect is affecting your plants, and then research what earth-friendly solutions are available. The beautiful thing about compost is its ability to balance your soil’s pH and reduce the need to reach for chemical inputs.

8. Next summer, resolve to help–not hinder–your lawn’s desire to be green and healthy by mowing your grass at a “healthy height.” Set your mower at its highest setting, because longer leaves support a thicker and deeper network of roots, which means the grass requires less water, it can survive extreme weather conditions, and it’s better equipped to fight diseases and weeds.

Kodiak is blessed with dozens of organics, from kelp and leaves to grass clippings and kitchen scraps. By making your own compost you save money because you don’t have to buy bagged compost. Besides, leaves and grass clippings don’t belong in the landfill.

9. Speaking of compost, vow to start a compost pile in 2022 and place it where it’s convenient to tend.

James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits” recommends priming the environment to make future actions easier. Want to improve your diet? “Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables on weekends and pack them in containers, ” he says, “so you have easy access to healthy, ready-to-eat options during the week.”

10. Make a wish list of plants you want to grow next year. Last week, I shared my List of Easy-to-Grow Vegetables.

11. Resolve to add a piece of garden art to your landscape. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate fountain or koi ponds. A stepping stone, a bamboo fence or a whale-shaped piece of driftwood provides a creative focal point and an extra touch of beauty to your outdoor living room.

12. Meanwhile, celebrate life’s surprises. REI did. When they announced their decision to close their doors and head outside on Black Friday, they were surprised at how many people (1.5 million) chose to stand with them and enjoy the day outside with friends and family.

REI was humbled and grateful. Their goal is to help people explore what it means to truly opt outside and put the outdoors at the center of your life.

13. Reading good books is another activity to put at the center of your life. We are so immersed these days in news, social media and yielding to the temptation of attention-grabbing smartphones, it’s helpful to give half an hour or so each day to reading the scriptures and the writings of the great saints of all religions.

“Their experience and encouraging words can give us the support and companionship we need to keep up our efforts to transform our lives,” wrote Eknath Easwaran in his little book, “Your Life Is Your Message.”

Just before bedtime, after your evening meditation or quiet time, is a particularly good time for spiritual reading because the thoughts you fall asleep in will be with you throughout the night.

So choose a worthy task or project that you have been told you could not do, and try to do it. Each day strive to accomplish something that you have always thought you could not accomplish.

Remember, motion breeds clarity. And, you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.

Happy New Year!

I’ve got more resources for you:

Hi gardeners! Want to create your dream garden? You can do it, step-by-step with Marion Owen: The Gardener’s Coach. Visit my YouTube channel: The Gardener’s Coach.

Compost is the answer to everything in the garden!
And if you have enough of it, you won’t need much of anything else. To learn more, take my 60-second assessment.

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