New Year’s resolutions for your garden

T78464698he New Year brings new ­resolutions. If you go the healthy food and exercise route, you probably will break the resolution two weeks into the new year, if not sooner.

Gardening resolutions have the advantage of lasting longer, but only due to the fact that it’s too cold to do much gardening until April or May. And by then we can blame short-term memory loss, global warming or the alignment of the planets for any promises broken.

Resolutions probably fall into one of three categories.

The first is the promise of “not to use as many bad chemicals” in the landscape. This one is relatively easy as you can justify any action by using safer products, less of them or moving to the desert where there are fewer pests.

Over the years, chemical use has dropped. We no longer have the desire to be totally pest-free. And as regular readers of this column know, the more you plant and diversify your yard, the fewer the pests. Getting rid of large chunks of lawn is a great start, though fencing it in and raising sheep and goats is another option of cutting chemical use. And you can use the livestock.

Do check with local ordinances. It’s sad to state but some communities have ordinances against raising livestock within municipal limits.

Reduced pest problems with diversification is a fact. The more different plants you have, the fewer pests. Part of the reason this works is you have fewer specific plants the pests will go after. The other part is you bring in beneficial creatures such as birds and insects.

Nature can have the final laugh. For example, say you plant fennel and dill to attract swallowtail caterpillars and by extension the butterflies when the larva pupate. On top of that, you should still have some fennel and dill for cooking if you plant enough.

But then, the cardinals that have stuck around all year due to the seeds on the trees, shrubs and ­perennials, discover the tastiness of the ­caterpillars. Wham! No swallowtails. Sigh. But at least the cardinals are proliferating instead of the pigeons.

Another resolution is to “garden more.” It’s also one of those that just about anyone can say they achieve at the end of the year. Who is to argue? And how would you measure any outcome.
Now, gardening is akin to ­exercising, so if you say “get more exercise for 2014,” consider modifying the statement to “get more exercise gardening.” It also gets you out in the fresh air.
This goes back to the diversification statement. Garden more by ­planting different plants, including trees and shrubs. Manicured lawns have their place including golf courses, but require a significant input in time, money and chemicals.

On the other hand, massive lawns are one means of getting one spouse out of the hair of the other.
The third resolution is the one that usually is broken faster than any other; it’s the promise of “not ­planting as much as I did last year” and the sub-promise of “I’ll not buy as much stuff.” I never get it planted until mid-September anyway and letting it sit around until then could look like hoarding.”
We all fail with this pledge but with good intentions. It’s like choosing that one piece of candy. Everything looks good and we want to try everything.


David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois.
David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois.

Blessed are those with unlimited garden space. Cursed are the rest of us with neighbors who allow us to encroach somewhat but within limits.

One of the best ways to limit your buying next spring is to use cash. Don’t take the credit cards. Don’t take the checkbook. Set a budget, put that money in an envelope and stick to it. This could also be combined with another resolution like the more exercise more gardening combo. You could get bonus points.

But don’t get too frugal and drop that gym membership just because “you’re going to lose those pounds gardening more.”