When the end of December rolls around, do you find yourself looking at the past year in review, or the one heading your way? A little reflection goes a long way to planning to be better in the coming year, and for me, the list will probably include the following goals:
• Gather and organize all the bits of baling twine, twist ties and clips that hold plants and trellises together. Honestly, the garage looks like Silly String spewed everywhere. It's because I can't take twine off objects without thinking, "I can use this in the garden," and scurry it into the garage like a packrat. If I roll all the strands together, I can turn it into a big ball of twine, like the roadside attraction in Minnesota, or Kansas, or anywhere a gardener decided to organize these ties.
• Pay attention to the mature size of the plant when putting it in the ground. This is something I lecture about at talks, but didn't personally follow this year, resulting in the Great Zucchini Eclipse of 2018. Plopped in the same bed as the sweet potatoes, I wrongly assumed that 26-1 odds meant that the sweet potatoes would win. The zucchini had other plans, growing monstrously large leaves and expanding its girth to swallow up all of the light, leaving the sweet potatoes to struggle in shade.
• Encourage beneficial organisms to help me keep my pest problems to a minimum. Plantings to provide nectar, pollen, or water keep beneficial insects happy, specialty houses convince bats to nest, and turned-over pots attract toads.
All of these creatures are useful and if my problem were just insects, this would be terrific. But in my case, the biggest threat to the plants are the ones that run on four legs, so attracting birds to roost in the yard is a goal, especially raptors and owls. Since I have no clue what attracts them, I'll just start hooting and screeching outside my home, in hopes that it will sound welcoming. On second thought, perhaps my behaving that way will be enough to keep the thugs at bay.
• Install a rack for holding tools, and use it. This will help me locate spading forks or trenching shovels by seeing the empty space where they should be and remembering that I left them outside by the last job I was doing. In the long run it might teach me to bring in and hang the tools up where they belong.
• Get a new pair of gardening gloves, something I should do every year. I've discovered that mud, water, and plant sap dry gloves into stiffened forms that crackle when I put them on. These hand-shaped statuettes have offered insight into my mindset across the seasons — from demure springtime shapes to more expressive finger forms when bugs and disease take their toll.
In celebration of this accidental artistry, new gloves each year are in order.
• Be mindful when shopping new plants during the quiet, dreaming season of winter. Although catalogs and emails from favorite suppliers whet my appetite for new varieties, Colorado's growing conditions always provide a reality check. Since I'm experimenting with dry beans, a recent email blast from a specialty catalog caught my eye; a new release had me salivating to try it. But one look beyond the compelling description to see if the plant will work in our short, hot, dry growing season had me discarding the plan to plant it. It wouldn't work here, because the bean in question is a long-season variety that needs more water than I can promise.
What are your thoughts for the new year? Whatever your resolutions may be, here's wishing you a beautiful, bountiful 2019.