New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind this time of year. This year my list starts with a very general vow: Spend more time out in the garden. At this point, I don’t care if that means time spent weeding, planting, pruning, propagating, or just watching the plants grow. During 2014, I simply spent far too little time doing what I love to do best. My garden suffered as a result, and so did I. With any luck, working in the garden will also help with resolutions relating to getting in shape and losing weight. According to Web MD, you can burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories per hour in the garden, depending on the activity.
Above: All my resolutions will make room for more plants, including bulbs like these snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).
I also want to continue taking steps to make my garden and landscape more Bay- and earth-friendly. Obviously, this is an issue I have been thinking quite a lot about in recent years, since it is a major focus of my new book, Chesapeake Gardening & Landscaping. Since I don’t want to start off the year with a daunting list, today I am concentrating on steps that will help reduce maintenance or bring other benefits.
1. Eliminate the small remaining strip of grass that runs along the driveway. Not only does the grass keep creeping into the adjacent bed, it can only be mown as an afterthought, rather than as part of an efficient, sweeping pattern around the yard. A thick layer of newspaper topped with some of the mulch we gleaned from the electric line pruning (or hacking!) crews this fall will do the trick. Green benefits: About half a minute less mowing time weekly, plus room to plant more ground covers later in the year.
Above: Last year, I eliminated the grass in the foreground and planted, but the strip along the driveway on the right remains. It goes in 2015!
2. Clear out the mix of grass and weeds along the right side of the front garden and join up two adjacent beds. This not only will give the whole front garden a more pulled together look and add a second access path to the main garden, it also opens up more space for plants—always a bonus. With a bit of ingenuity I may be able to fit in a tiny water garden or a bog garden here. Water in any form attracts wildlife and makes a garden more fun and interesting.
Above: I started connecting the main front garden to plantings along the driveway in fall 2011. While I have worked on it periodically and weeded annually, this year, I am vowing to finish the project! Stay tuned for updates.
3. Plant a ground cover test area on the slope behind the house. This will be harder than it sounds, since most of the site is underlain with two or three layers of landscape fabric spread by the last owner. It is simply a mess, although in past years I have started clearing and planting from both ends. Anyone out there who has tried using landscape fabric (I am talking about the non-biodegradable kind here) knows it is an abomination. It not only doesn’t prevent weeds, since they root right through it, tree roots also weave through it as well making it nearly impossible to remove. I am planning to cut out as much of it as I can and then plant. One major green benefit is that the existing fabric currently blocks all movement of soil organisms from the soil surface down into the soil, so they can’t move organic matter around. The weeds and non-native invasive ground covers planted on top and growing through the fabric also are really difficult to pull. On the plus side, my dogs love it when I work on projects in the back yard, since they like to help.
4. Finally, I also want to take time to notice details and enjoy the garden more. It is all to easy to forget to pause and appreciate plants, wildlife, and other garden details. I have a bird list for the property, and vow to pull my binoculars out more often to look for new species. This year, I also want to pay more attention to butterflies and other insects and take time to photograph them and identify where possible.
Happy new year to all Eastern Shore Gardener readers! I hope you take time to post some of your gardening resolutions you would like to share!