Lee Valley & Veritas

Gardening Newsletter
  Volume 11, Issue 1 - January 2016  
Gardening Resolutions
Ah, the New Year. A time to pledge to be the absolute best version of ourselves. We’re going to lose weight and quit smoking and eat healthier and be kinder to strangers who are mean to us when we accidentally cut them off on the highway.

At the beginning of January, achieving the perfect you seems possible. Doable! A fun goal that you have never been so motivated for. You have a new exercise outfit that looks so good, you’re not even sure you need to exercise anymore. And what better way to celebrate your new, slimming exercise outfit than with a big, healthy salad followed by all the leftover Christmas cookies in the house, including that one you found under the couch with a bite out of it? And when you run out of cookies, you lumber over to the car to drive half a block to the corner store for some Cheezies®, narrowly missing a surprisingly nimble group of seniors walking to church.

This is why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Why bother to spend all that time coming up with good resolutions only to break them and put half my town in danger?  Not that I’m really talking about me – this is all hypothetical, of course. So this year instead of my own health, I’m going to focus on the health of my garden and, therefore, basically the safety of my entire town. I’m very altruistic.

As gardeners, we really do have the best intentions at the beginning of the gardening season. We’re going to keep everything watered and weeded and deadheaded. We’ll split our plants and mulch and prune with such finesse that we’ll look through gardening magazines and think “Pftt. Amateurs.” That, of course, like I said, is at the beginning of the season. By the middle of the season, we’re getting a lot more lax about it all. By that time, we’re looking through gardening magazines thinking “Who has time for a garden like that?!”

Part of the problem is that good intentions are fine and dandy, but without a plan, chances are you’re going to resort to all your old habits. Here’s my plan:
Gardening Resolutions and How to Keep Them
1. I always seem to buy three too many plants, which I then push into a corner of my patio, convincing myself I’ll find a place for them tomorrow. By the end of July, I resolve that they’re finally dried up and dead enough that I can throw them out without much guilt. Every. Year. I. Do. This.

This year, I will plant every single plant I buy, even if it means secretly planting them in a neighbor’s yard.
2. I own a push mower, several pruning shears and a few nice shovels. All of them are so dull that when bored kids are in my house, I hand all my gardening tools to them and tell them they’re toys.

This year, I will research what I need to buy and do to get all my tools back into shape. (Note to self: Also buy some actual toys for visiting kids.)
3. First off, let me say I don’t even really love tomatoes. I like them, but I couldn’t stand out in the garden and eat one like an apple the way some people do. So why I grow a minimum of 17 different varieties of tomatoes every year is beyond me. But I do it. They take up valuable garden space that I could devote to increasing the variety of squash I grow.

This year, when starting my tomato seedlings, I will stick to 10 varieties. My incentive will be reminding myself that the space I save can be devoted to a few fun, new seed selections from the seed catalog I practically sleep with in the winter months.
Tomato plants
4. I’ve actually found that vegetables don’t really need as much water as you think they do. In most climates, the rain is often enough to keep them thriving. Potted plants or hanging baskets are another story, though.

This year, I’m going to keep full watering cans around to make watering planters and hanging baskets easier. And I’m really going to do it; I’m not just going to say I’m going to do it.
5. I’m a seed addict. They’re everywhere. Seeds I’ve bought, seeds I’ve saved, seeds I’ve not so discreetly shaken out of flowers on evening walks. Half of my seeds are kind of organized in wooden boxes. The other half of the packets are anywhere from in a box with my gardening gloves to my cutlery drawer.

This year, I’m going to figure out a compact, simple way to store all of my seeds according to type and variety.
6. I actually kind of like weeding. I find it sort of meditative. Until July. Then I find it annoying, relentless and pointless.

This year, I’m going to weed or die trying. Basically I’m making up the part about "dying trying" because as much as I love a clean path, I’m not willing to die for it. I am, however, willing to invest in some mulch and a great loop hoe. Scratch that. I did invest in one two years ago. I resolve to use it.
Pathway that needs weeding
7. I have a big hardcover gardening journal that I love. The odd time I remember to record things in it, but mainly I just remind myself to write things in it, which I then promptly forget. So many times I’ve flipped through it hoping I actually wrote down how many potatoes I harvested last year or when in the season cabbage moths started to appear. More times than not, I flip through the journal to find a bunch of empty, pristine pages.

This year, I will mark down every single harvest I make and any important happenings in my garden. To make this simpler, I’ll keep my journal out for easy access and have a pen or pencil sitting right on top of it.
8. This year, I’m going to stop pretending that I’m ever going to worm compost.  Seriously – it’s never going to happen. I don’t know who I think I’m fooling.
9. I’m one of those people who stupidly say, “I just can’t grow indoor plants. I’m great with outdoor stuff, but I kill every indoor plant I bring into the house”. I’m NOT one of those people, and neither are you. We’re just lazier about our indoor plants because we think of them as decoration.

This year, I’m going to go to the huge effort of keeping my indoor plants alive. This basically involves watering them once a week.
Keeping indoor plants alive
10. I work a lot in my garden, which I greatly enjoy. I pick the perfect plants for my front yard and back yard and spend a ton of time making them look good (at least until the middle of July). But I don’t spend a lot of time just relaxing, enjoying it all.

This year, I resolve to take it all in. I’m going to enjoy being surrounded by my gardens, not just working in them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m pretty sure I spot a cookie under the couch.

Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen

Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Five years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff (www.theartofdoingstuff.com) as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.
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