Resolutions for (other) gardeners

By Marianne C. Ophardt, Special to the Tri-City Herald January 6, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- Happy New Year!

To tell you the truth, I'm never been one of those people who makes New Year's resolutions. It's because I'm not sure I could keep them.

However, here are a few gardening resolutions I would like to keep ... if I made resolutions.

Keeping a garden journal

I admire gardeners who keep meticulous records of what varieties they plant where in their gardens, make notes of when they planted seeds or transplants, record the daily or weekly weather, remark on problem pests, and write about garden successes and failures. As much as I would like to do that, and have even procured a very nice garden journal, I haven't written down one word.

Of course writing a journal with pen and paper is somewhat outdated today. I could journal with an online blog, on a Facebook page or by Twittering. I even could take pictures with my phone's camera to record the good and the bad. I just might do that, but mind you I'm not making it a resolution.

Buying only the seed I need

I don't buy much seed anymore since much of my garden consists of perennial plants, ornamental grasses, and flowering shrubs, but when I peruse through seed catalogs I almost can't resist buying veggies and annual flowers I would like to try. This is a real problem each year for many gardeners. It's always fun to try something new, but there's only so much room in anyone's garden!

I have the same problem when I find an interesting new plant. I want to buy it without thinking about whether I have the space for it or if it will fit into my design. This is the downfall of many gardeners like me, who love plants. Last year I resolved not to keep buying plants just because I was smitten. I amazed myself when I was at a local nursery last summer poised to buy this gorgeous Japanese forest grass variety called 'Beni-kaze.' My resolve held and I decided to go home and check to see where I could plant it. Couldn't find a spot, but I'll be back for it when one opens up.

Soil testing

One resolution that I am making is to get my soil tested. Even though I recommend that gardeners get their soil tested, I haven't followed through myself. A soil test checks the levels of the nutrients in the soil that are essential for plant growth. The soils lab that tests the soil will provide me with a report regarding the level of these nutrients in the soil and indicate the amount of fertilizer needed for good plant growth.

Without a soil test, we gardeners are just guessing what nutrients are needed and are probably over applying some and under applying others. Excessive applications of certain nutrients, especially nitrogen and phoshorus, can cause harm to plants and the environment.

Take time to smell the flowers

Dedicated gardeners always can find something to keep them busy in the garden, and usually fail to relax and enjoy what their hard work and loving attention has created. I think more of us should resolve to forget the deadheading, weeding and watering for a little while each day and take time out to enjoy our gardens.

If you don't have a garden of your own, take a walk through the Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden behind the Kennewick Library on South Union Street in Kennewick. There's always something to see ... even in the winter.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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