By Bonnie L. Grant
Good garden practices go a long way to reducing maintenance, improving plant health and creating a self-sustaining garden. Even the most experienced gardener can benefit from starting some new healthy habits and exploring modern garden techniques. Many modern methods of gardening incorporate time honored traditions. We can all learn from our past and the same is true in gardening. Here are the top 5 tips to get your New Year gardening season started.
1. Save water. Who doesn’t want a lower water bill and more conscious use of this valuable resource? Saving water is the hip way to garden and can still provide a diverse and lush landscape. Wherever possible, replace high usage areas such as turf grass. Install rain barrels and xeriscape gardens. Apply mulch to conserve moisture in soil.
2. Compost. In some areas, composting is compulsory but even if it is not, your garden can benefit from your table scraps. Set up a compost pile or use a tumbler to make your own organic garden amendment. Returning the nutrients to the soil increases fertility, tilth, reduces weeds, and holds moisture better.
3. Learn how to propagate. Division of perennials is a great and easy way to multiply your stock of some old favorites. Many woody plants can be propagated through hardwood cuttings taken just before growth flushes. Insert cuttings into vermiculite or sand and grow in a cool area. Some good plants to try are forsythia, quince, viburnum, trumpet vines and wisteria.
4. Repurpose, reuse and recycle. Go through the attic or garage for unique items to use as planters, barriers, pavers and other garden improvement projects. Utilizing old items in a new way is an excellent step in sustainable landscapes and keeps our landfills clear. Even a gardener with no particular creative talent can find fun items to spruce up the patio and garden for the new year ahead.
5. Eat at home. Start your own vegetable garden. In February, many of the cool season produce can be started in a cold frame, greenhouse or direct sown into a prepared bed in temperate and warm climates. Begin the long season produce, such as tomatoes and peppers, indoors in flats. Grow them under lights and they will be ready for transplant as soon as the outdoor temperatures have warmed. Growing your own food is cheap, provides you with organic produce and you can compost spent plants directly into the soil in fall to start juicing up the beds for the next season’s growth.