One of life’s pleasures is being surrounded by a healthy, colorful, fragrant environment. I’ve made grandiose resolutions for my garden in the past, but for the coming year, my commitments are more modest and have a somewhat “green” tinge. I’ve focused on ways to lessen negative impacts on the environment. Whether or not we get that promised El Niño, there are small changes we can make to keep our gardens growing and “green.”
Here are a few:
- This year, I’ll “think green.” For instance, I’ll wash and reuse plastic pots whenever possible and look for a program that has a need for them. Plastic pots are derived from fossil fuels and often end up in landfills. I’ll reuse plastic pots, after disinfecting them with a solution of 1:10 bleach and water, to start seedlings and cuttings to be later transplanted to the garden.
- I’ll expand my compost pile. I’ll remember to feed my compost worms, housed in their cozy worm bins, on a weekly basis. If you don’t have a compost pile, start one in a corner of your garden. Add greens, dry leaves, straw, vegetable and fruit scraps. Smaller pieces of compost break down more quickly. Keep your pile moist. Stir and turn it to keep it oxygenated. After about six months, the resulting material can be dug into your garden to improve water retention and add nourishment to the soil.
- I’ll resolve to use fertilizers only as needed. Most gardeners use too many chemical fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers require fossil fuel to manufacture and eventually wash into waterways. Of course, I could have my soil tested to see what nutrients are lacking, but I will fight my tendency for perfectionism. I’ll add good organic compost to the soil twice a year. This should be sufficient to feed plants and improve soil in my “less than perfect” garden.
- I’ll become more tolerant of pests and continue to use pesticides only as a last resort. Checking a garden twice a week and dealing with pests before they become a real problem pays off for most gardeners. Use gopher traps as soon as you see a fresh pile of soil. Pick snails from plants as the moist weather motivates them. Greet aphids with a strong stream of water when they arrive in the spring. Healthy plants can tolerate some mild pest invasions. I’ll learn to overlook them.
- I’ll continue to grow fresh greens, planting in succession every three weeks throughout the year. Tendergreen mustard spinach and arugula grow year-around here. I’ll use captured rainwater as long as it lasts.
- I’ll spend a period of time each day ignoring imperfections and being “amazed” by a garden with birds, wildlife, and a variety of plants that thrive here. I’ll stop, slow down, listen and breathe in the air. I’ll appreciate nature’s ability to adapt to change without complaint.
Buying fresh herbs in those little packages can be expensive. Instead, buy a few culinary herbs from the nursery and grow herbs indoors, in outdoor pots, in vegetable boxes or in flowerbeds. Use herb leaves to dress up your favorite dishes. Keep a couple of parsley, dill, and mint plants going year around. Basil can be planted in the spring in a warm sunny place. There’s nothing like fresh herbs to dress up dishes.