Another year is about to end and, like everyone else, gardeners are faced with New Year's resolutions. Why consider New Year's resolutions in the middle of the coldest part of the year? If they are not made now they certainly won't be made on a busy Saturday in May while attempting to plant all the vegetables, annual flowers and everything else. Resolutions, if followed, improve the production and enjoyment of the garden.
One of the most useful garden tools is not found hanging with the shovels, hoes and rakes at the local garden center. This tool is a garden notebook. I realize garden notebooks will not dig any furrows or hoe any weeds, but they are useful.The old adage of "one dull pencil is worth a thousand sharp minds" certainly fits gardening. Each year I receive dozens of inquiries from gardeners who want a certain variety of tomatoes, vegetables, fruits or flowers identified. With thousands of varieties on the market today, it's virtually impossible to identify these varieties after the fact. Save yourself, your nurserymen and extension agent a lot of hassles by simply recording the names of what you plant. That way you won't wonder what that "absolutely best variety that you've ever grown" happens to be.
Along with recording what you plant, record planting dates. Almost all weather forecasts are based on the Salt Lake airport. Conditions in your garden may be days, weeks or even months different than the conditions reported there. A record of the planting dates helps duplicate successes in subsequent years.
In addition to the successes it's important to record failures. Even though we don't like to brag about garden failures, we often learn more from them than the successes. I also like to make a record of when certain pests appear in the garden. With that record you can watch for the pests and alter your variety or planting dates to minimize pests problems.
Gardeners should also commit to garden recycling. The amount of material going to the landfill each week as grass clippings, leaves and other garden wastes is amazing. Disregarding the problems that this creates in trash collection, it is even a bigger waste in terms of lost resources. Few gardeners consider their soil to be ideal. The best way to improve poor soils is to add organic matter. It makes little sense to send valuable organic matter to a landfill when the same material can and should be composted to improve your soil.
Resolve to protect your soil by keeping undesirable contaminants away. Salts (including gypsum), oils and other automotive or household chemicals should never be disposed of via the garden. The same is true of wood ashes.
Integrated pest management is another important resolution. Unfortunately, we seem to have a spray-can mentality in our society. Sprays are certainly not the only, and sometimes not even the best, solution to garden problems. Over two-thirds of the insects in your garden eat other insects as their diet.
Indiscriminate spraying kills the predators and eventually allows greater problems to develop in pest management. Integrated pest management or IPM depends on correct identification of the pest and determining whether the pest causes any damage. Choose the best method of control with the least impact on the environment. Integrated pest management ensures the healthiest, safest produce available.
Include a resolution to try something new in the garden each year, both edible and ornamental crops. In addition to new varieties, try some different plants. Some of the new plants may end up becoming the old standbys in your garden.
Perhaps a final resolution would include, "1991 is the year I am going to keep ahead of those pesky weeds." Weeds cause more failures than any other pest. Faith without works is dead; weeds without work aren't dead. Successful weed control requires diligent effort coupled with scientific practices. The resolution has no effect unless followed up by strong, vigorous weed-control actions.
Start your New Year's resolution when removing your Christmas tree. Don't send it to the landfill but offer it for recycling. Recycled trees make excellent compost. Salt Lake City generally recycles most of its trees via the University of Utah Grounds Department. Call your local sanitation department to find out how to best recycle your tree. If you or a neighbor has a chipper, shred it for an excellent mulch. Never attempt to dispose of Christmas trees in wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. Remember that Christmas trees are the stuff forest fires are made of. Once they catch fire they have an explosive burn pattern.
In the midst of new resolutions, take time to enjoy the holidays. Best wishes for a great gardening year.