Every year, I make a list of things I want to achieve or change in my garden. But the year passes, I get busy planning my clients’ landscapes and before I know it, it’s mid summer. That is not an ideal time to start something new in the garden.
I’ve promised myself that this year, however, will be different. All those ideas I’ve jotted down in my garden notebook? I plan to convert at least some of them into reality. And January is the perfect time to sit down and create a plan for just how all of it will happen.
Along those lines, here are my 10 garden resolutions for 2018, some of which may work for you, too:
1. Test my soil. Although I never miss this step with my clients, I’m often remiss in my own garden. Learning about your soil is crucial if you want to provide the best conditions for plants to grow.
This year as soon as the soil has warmed up, I plan to take samples from different areas of my garden and send them off for analysis. I’ll order the kits from University of Delaware. Their soil testing facility provides information on soil acidity, texture and amount of organic matter that can identify factors that may be negatively affecting your plants. They also provide recommendations for what nutrients to apply (and how much) to improve things, as well as appropriate rates of fertilizer.
2. Plant late-season bulbs, especially dahlias (which are technically tubers.) This year, I planted two new varieties of dahlias in my garden here in Maryland. They put on a spectacular show from July through October, outperforming many of the other late-summer bloomers in my garden.
There are so many interesting types of dahlias and they’re a breeze to grow, as long as you get them in the ground early enough. Best time to plant is after the danger of frost has passed, when the soil temperature is about 60°F. Other late summer bulbs like canna, calla lilies and caladiums are a great way to extend the show into the the second half of the growing season.
3. Try something new. This year, I plan to add colchicum autumnale (also known as Autumn Crocus, or Naked Ladies) to my garden. These star-shaped lavender flowers bloom on naked stems in late August-September. They need to go in the ground in early August, though, in order to bloom at the appropriate time. I resolve to get them in the ground so I can enjoy them late in the season.
4. Prune my boxwood in early winter. My boxwood shrubs have become very dense, which is a clear sign that it’s time to open them up a little with some careful thinning. Thick foliage is a leading cause of many of the diseases affecting this plant. Thinning brings light and air into the interior of the shrub and helps it stay healthy.
The United States National Arboretum recommends thinning boxwood on an annual basis, a task best done in early winter. I plan to thin mine next year in early December, which is also a good time for harvesting branches for holiday decorations. If yours need to be thinned, too, click here for the Arboretum’s recommendations on how to thin boxwood.
5. Grow more annuals from seed.
Annuals like zinnias and cosmos are easy to grow from seed. This year, I pledge to remember to plant them.
A colorful zinnia mix, great for late summer
Zinnias come in perfect late-summer colors like deep yellow, brilliant red and dark purple. Best of all, seeds can be sown directly into the ground in the spring.
6. Plant spring bulbs in containers. Each year I sow bulbs in my garden and forget to put them in my pots. Come spring, I’m sorely disappointed. Growing bulbs in pots doesn’t take much forethought. Just fill the container with a good quality potting mix and plant the bulbs at the same depth you would plant them in the ground.
Tulips and daffodils look particularly good in pots, as do crocus and Siberian squill (pictured above.) I missed the window again this year, but resolve to fill my pots with bulbs next November.
7. Clean, sharpen and oil my garden tools. I’m usually in the middle of a job when my pruners start sticking, forcing me to pry them apart each time I make a cut. Of course, this could have been prevented if I had taken the time to clean, sharpen and oil them.
Winter is the perfect time to do this chore. I plan to clean all my tools in January. For a great tutorial on how to do it, click here.
8. Changing my mulch to shredded leaves, the ‘liquid gold’ of mulches. I’ve started using it for a number of my clients and I’m going to start using it in my own garden, too. We purchase our leaf mulch locally in Virginia. It’s light-weight, maintains its natural brown color and stays put all summer.
As it gradually breaks down, shredded leaf mulch adds nutrients to the soil. Not to be confused with compost tea, however, which is made from decomposed leaves. For information on how to make your own shredded leaf mulch, click here for a step-by-step guide of how to make mulch from leaves.
9. Notice the little stuff. This summer, I took a photo of my Japanese anenomes blooming in my garden. Some time later, I zoomed in on the picture and saw this metallic blue bee pollinating one of the flowers. I didn’t notice it the first time around.
This year, I plan to take more time to notice the small stuff in my garden.
10. Keep a better garden log. Keeping track of the goings-on in the garden always helps in planning the subsequent year. I usually start off with a bang, then get busy and forget to jot things down.
My own garden journal
I did a little better this year, especially in the fall. I’ve resolved to up my game in 2018.
Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and all good things in the garden and beyond for 2018! And stay tuned for next week’s post on ‘Snowflake Bentley.’