CLEVELAND, Ohio — The new calendar year is here, which means it is a good time to think about resolutions for the upcoming gardening season. Thanks to the ideas that readers have shared, I have several concepts to explore in 2023.
Read all of Susan Brownstein’s gardening columns here.
Eliminate single-use plastic and minimize waste and petroleum products in my gardening practice. There a many good reasons for gardeners to, in the words of reader Ray in Westlake, “reduce their garbage footprint,” but it takes a conscious effort to do so. Plastic pots, tags, bags, and bottles are abundant in garden supplies, and while I have long reused as much as possible, I am ready to take the next step and find alternatives to these products, especially those that are single use. In our pursuit of picture-perfect produce, we may be causing irreparable harm to our environment, and I don’t want to give my kids the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so” when they get older.
Have a plan for any new plants and projects. Occasionally people buy new clothes or shoes for no other reason than it looked cute or was on sale, only to discover at home that it did not fit in with the rest of their wardrobe, or they never had occasion to wear it. The offending items are then shoved in the back of a closet or drawer until they are eventually donated.
I rarely make these types of impulse purchases—except when it comes to plants. I am a sucker for anything with blue-gray foliage, but have also fallen for a native that blooms in a color lacking in my garden or simply a straggler on sale that I want to give a good home. Whatever the reason, if I do not have an exact place in mind for the plant, it will languish in its pot while I agonize where to put it and then find time to prepare the site and plant it.
Even worse is when my garden plans exceed my available time and strength to get a job done, and piles of mulch dot our yard for months at a time. (If I haven’t mentioned it lately, I love my neighbors.) Summers are short in Northeast Ohio, which means a limited number of projects can be done in a year. I am used to budgeting money for garden projects, but this year I will also be budgeting time, prioritizing projects, and setting more realistic goals.
Find the third dimension. Reader David in Avon Lake most often writes to me about his success in saving seeds, but he also has interesting ideas about sight lines and dimensions in planting. Instead of a “dull, two-dimensional, typical American garden” he uses compost to “create a three-dimensional yard with limited lawn and with sloping mounds” of shrubs, flowers, and groundcover. The British TV show, Gardener’s World, often shows gardens designed with ridges and dips, which create visual interest as well as habitat for wildlife. In my own yard, one of my favorite spots is a simple sloped area with ferns interplanted with allium planted by the previous owner, and the gentle curve is a major factor in its appeal. In keeping with the previous resolution, I will start small but will try to give more thought to adding height and curvature to my gardening.
Start even more seeds indoors and experiment with foodscaping and permaculture. Readers Jim from Avon Lake (aka the Popcorn Guy) and Ray from Westlake are among those promoting the idea of incorporating food plants within landscaped areas. Jim’s intriguing suggestion to use corn as a privacy screen is fascinating, and Ray suggests, “Plant some vegetables amongst your flowers: Beets are very ornamental, with their green and red-lined leaves. Carrots, basil and kohlrabi also look good…and beet greens are edible, either raw in salads or cooked like spinach or Swiss chard.”
I made some hesitant attempts to take this advice last year, sprinkling some kale and Swiss chard seeds in a sunny flower bed in mid-July just to see what would happen. Nothing came up for several weeks and I thought the experiment was a bust, but eventually some scraggly leaves emerged and started taking off in October as the raised bed garden was going dormant. Better yet, these plants were unprotected from deer and rabbits yet were not eaten by them, and I did nothing to amend the soil either. With these slim but encouraging results, I intend to start seedlings indoors for these foodscaping plants and plant them out in more widespread areas of the yard. Planting seedlings instead of seeds will make it easier to remember where they are, and using my own seedlings instead of purchased ones keeps it cheap enough that it won’t be devastating to lose a few specimens to critters or weather conditions.
Above all, my goal is to keep learning and producing beautiful and delicious food for my family and environment. What are some of your garden-related resolutions for the new year? Email me at [email protected].