Growing Green: New Year’s resolutions
Even though it is not quite Jan. 1, it’s not too early to make your gardening resolutions for the New Year. Gardening is supposed to be a fun and leisure activity, yet many times there are a lot of frustrated gardeners out there. While it’s great to be challenged, there are a number of things you can do to make your gardening life easier. Here are some resolutions for you to make:
1. Keep a gardener’s journal. It can be a spiral-bound notebook where you keep records of what you planted and when, what did well, and what didn’t. Record when you found an infestation of some kind of insect or disease. It was probably too late to treat for it by the time you discovered it, but it will remind you of what to be on the lookout for and when to look next year.
2. Only plant as many vegetables as you can handle. Every spring gardeners say they will only have at most three tomato plants and a few peppers. Then you see some unusual variety at a garden center or in a seed catalog. That leaves gardeners overwhelmed in August and September, canning like crazy, vowing to never grow vegetables again! But, if you do plant too many vegetables, give your excess to the local food bank.
3. Rotate your vegetable crops. If space allows, don’t plant your tomatoes in the same spot year after year. That allows for insects or disease problems to build up. This year, put your tomatoes where you usually plant your green beans or plant lettuce where you usually put your cucumbers, and so forth.
4. Don’t move firewood. The most important vector for many tree pests is movement of infested wood. You should only buy and burn locally cut firewood. If you have already brought firewood from another area, burn it. Do not leave it. Do not take it with you. Insects and diseases moved with firewood include the spotted lanternfly, the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer and thousand canker disease.
5. Do your research and select plants that are disease resistant and appropriate for your landscape’s growing conditions. It saves so much time, energy and aggravation, and cuts down on pesticide use. At least read the tag before you buy.
6. Take a Penn State soil test before creating a new lawn or garden area. For $9 you get a good idea of the soil’s pH and nutrient levels. It saves money on unnecessary fertilize use and allows you to work with your soil’s natural chemistry.
7. Start composting. It’s amazing how much we throw in our landfills that could be turned into great soil enhancements for very low cost and effort. Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and grass clippings are just a few of the things that could go into a small compost pile.
8. Use our natural resources wisely. If we have another dry year, water early in the day or in the evening to save water.
9. When using salt to melt ice on walks and driveways, spread it carefully to avoid damage to nearby shrubs. Damage to needle-type evergreens will be evidenced next spring by copper and yellow tones. Damaged deciduous plants will have bronze or reddish leaves. Consider using sand or sawdust instead.
10. Avoid walking on grass or ground-covers while they are frozen. The frozen leaves are brittle and easily damaged.
11. Don’t top trees. Topping trees results in large areas of decay and fast-growing, weak and unattractive water sprouts. In the most severe cases, topping can lead to the death of a tree.
12. Plant the right tree in the right place. Plant tree species that fit and will thrive in places where they are planted. Don’t plant large trees under power lines, in small tree lawns, in sidewalk cutouts or close to building and signs.
“Growing Green” is by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Lehigh County: 610-391-9840; Northampton County: 610-746-1970.