Gardening / Insights

Not a gardener? These 12 New Year’s resolutions are meant for you, too.

If you’re like me, you need a goal—even a tiny one—or you might end up like a lost duck, waddling along the lake shore, but never getting into the water. Today I’m sharing a dozen resolutions, mostly slanted for gardeners. But if you’ve never used a trowel, that’s alright. Within these gentle offerings I’m sure a photo, a quotation or a technique will pique your interest. Who knows. Maybe you’ll be inspired to dip a toe into the water.

1. Live the good life: Go outside

We humans, on average, spend about 95 percent of our time indoors, meaning we all suffer a little bit from Nature Deficit Disorder. So please do yourself a favor: Get thee outdoors! Speaking of nature, REI took an unusual stand against Black Friday: They closed all 143 stores. Why? To encourage friends and family to spend time outdoors. Their #optoutside campaign remains wildly popular.

So every day, make a date with the great outdoors. Stroll around your yard or neighborhood. Go for a walk in the park, visit an arboretum. I don’t care if you hug a tree or not, just get outside. I remember as a kid, mom would herd us out the back door, rain or shine. At first we didn’t like being told what to do, but we actually preferred being outside. Fresh air has a way of making you feel more alive.

2. Lettuce help

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 in 8 households in the United States experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. How can you help? Grow extra veggies, then donate them to your local food bank, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. The Garden Writers Association explains how you can Plant a Row for the Hungry.

Treat a person as he is, and will remain as he is. Treat him as he could be, and he will become what he should be.
~Jimmy Johnson

Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul cartoon by Kathy Shaken.3. Where did I put that plant, anyway?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever misplaced your car keys. Like losing keys, it’s easy to forget where you transplanted that bunch of bleeding hearts. That’s where smartphones come in handy. Snap photos of your garden and yard. Save them on your device as a digital journal or scrapbook.
Speaking of forgetfulness, as a co-author working on the New York Times bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, I volunteered to locate quotes and cartoons to complement each of the 101 stories. I laughed when I found this cartoon by Kathy Shaskan…

4. Keep the faith, baby

Don’t be afraid of failure. Be a cheerleader and have more faith in plants. “Plants want to survive and live,” says Amy Pennington, author of Apartment Gardening. “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.”

Like people, plants respond to extra attention. ~H. Peter Loewer

A salad garden (and helping hands) in Kodiak, Alaska. Photo by Marion Owen

A salad garden (and helping hands) in Kodiak, Alaska. Photo by Marion Owen

5. Real people eat real salads

There’s nothing like a fresh carrot or sun-warmed tomato. But if you don’t have room for a full-sized garden, sign up for a community garden plot or at least try to grow salad greens in a container. The authors of Bountiful Container will show you how. Growing safe, healthy food and being less dependent on Big Business Food are the top reasons why people grow their own. If you don’t believe me, read The Dumbing Down of Food: Why We Need to Own Our Food Future by Erik Wolf.

The purpose of agriculture is not the production of food, but the perfection of human beings. ~Masanobu Fukuoka

6. Tomato to human: “No junk food, please.”

Your plants want a healthy diet, so give them one. There’s no such thing as perfect soil or dirt that never needs replenishing. At least once a year, mulch with compost, shredded leaves, aged manure (aged like a good wine!) and–if you live by the ocean–plenty of kelp. (Seaweed is among the best gifts that nature makes available for the garden). Mulching improves soil nutrition and texture without the need to add chemicals.

Irish lore says that you can predict the weather by observing changes in seaweeds. Just hang a frond or two outside by the house. The strand (or frond) will remain rigid and dry when the weather is to remain good. Conversely, before it rains, the frond will become wet and moist long before it rains.

tomatoes, tomato, homegrown, organic, vegetable, garden, alaska

Just like you, your plants want to be healthy. Healthy plants, healthy you. Photo by Marion Owen

7. What’s that bug?

Aphids, pestsSpeaking of chemicals, before you reach for fungicides, herbicides, or ANY-cides, promise to learn what disease or insect is affecting your plants, like those aphids at right. Then research what earth-friendly solutions are available. It just so happens that the University of California has compiled helpful guidelines for managing home, garden, turf, and landscape pests with environmentally sound methods.

8. If you love your kids, love your lawn

Kids love to run barefoot on the grass. But danger lurks underfoot if you use any kind of chemical fertilizers. Break the chemical habit. Resolve to help–not hinder–your lawn’s desire to be green and healthy. It’s a 2-step process:

  1. Mow at a healthy height: Set your mower at its HIGHEST setting. Your lawn is made up of individual plants and 3-inch plants support a thicker and deeper network of roots much better than crewcut stubs ever thought of doing. Which means your lawn will require less water and can tolerate anything nature throws at it: Drought, heavy rain, freeze-thaw periods, diseases, pests, weeds, and the pitter-pat of little feet.
  2. Feed your lawn health food. In early spring, sprinkle a 1 to 2-inch layer of compost all over your lawn and spread it around with a rake. Now just watch. In a couple weeks the Ugly Duckling lawn will become a beautiful  swan lawn.
lawn, organic, feed, fertilizer, compost, green

Here’s the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to feed and renew your lawn: Spread a 1-inch layer of sifted compost on top and spread it with a rake.

9. It’s all about the journey

Yes I know, setting a goal is important, but experiencing the journey is where you learn.  While mapping out next year’s garden, try growing a new veg or a new flower. Change is good. “Challenges,” says Cicely Tyson, “make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage, sit down at the computer or with seed catalog and fill out an order form. It’s the beginning of a great adventure.

10. Save the world, make compost

The New York Times‘ book, 1000 Gardening Questions and Answers says, “Compost is the answer to everything.” So what are you waiting for? Assuming you don’t live in an apartment, collect ingredients and start a compost pile. Go on a treasure hunt. Talk with your neighbors. (When my Seattle brother felt sorry for his uprooted sister in Alaska, he mailed a trash compactor load of leaves). By making your own compost you save money: No more going to the nursery to buy bagged compost. Besides, leaves and grass clippings don’t belong in the landfill.

11. There’s a dragon in the garden!

Meet Daisy, my first 3-dimensional mosaic project. Her inner core is Styrofoam leftover from retired dock floats. After carving a head shape, I covered it with mesh and cement, and added broken plates. Okay, garden art doesn’t have to be as elaborate as Daisy. Stepping stones, a bamboo fence, a whale-shaped piece of driftwood–Pinterest is full of ideas–go a long way to enhance your yard with a creative focal point.

You don’t have a garden just for yourself. You have it to share.  ~Augusta Carter

mosaic garden art

Daisy the mosaic dragon. Garden art created and photographed by Marion Owen, Kodiak, Alaska

12. Take the first step

Remember Benjamin Franklin? Although not a serious gardener, he dabbled with plants, introducing many European plants to the colonies, including rhubarb for its medicinal (not pie) qualities.
Benjamin also had a few wise things to say about goals. This one’s my favorite: “Little strokes fell great oaks.”
Thanks for stopping by. Cheers,



(You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram at marion_owen_photography)

No Comments

  • Eva
    December 30, 2015 at 10:01 PM

    Great advice! Happy New Year to you and all yours, including Daisy : )


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