Gardening resolutions to consider for the New Year, part 2

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEJanuary 16, 2014 

Last week, I offered a few suggestions for your consideration as we enter a new year. Although resolutions often are broken early on, I’ve found that doing the things I’ve listed below and in last week’s column have long ago become second nature. This week, we finish up the list. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just getting started, adopting these practices into your gardening routine will surely serve you and your surroundings very well.

ADD A WATER FEATURE

We often take for granted that the creatures that visit our garden have access to plenty of water. Although they are incredibly adept at finding sources for drinking and bathing, having such a place (or several) in your yard and garden will draw even more wildlife than ever before. Providing a water source is one of the criteria necessary for creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat as described by the National Wildlife Federation. You’ll be amazed at just how many creatures, from birds to frogs and even honeybees will quickly find your water source once you make it available. In times of drought, such access to fresh water can make the difference in their survival chances.

WATER LESS

With more demand on water resources than ever before, it only makes sense to conserve where we can. For many, more water is used to irrigate lawns and landscapes than any other household use. Yet, take comfort in knowing we don’t need to water nearly so much. More plants and lawns have problems or die because of too much water vs. not enough. Plants and lawns will let you know when they need water and can recover quickly. When in doubt, check it out. If the soil is moist, there’s no need to water.

USE MORE MULCH

One of the easiest ways to improve soil, cut down on chemical use and water less, is simply to add about a 3-inch layer of mulch to all exposed soil surfaces. From raised garden beds to natural areas around your landscape, mulch is one of the single most important things you can do to improve the overall health of your local environment. Aesthetically, it’s the icing on the cake to dress up the look of any area.

In my book, mulch can be anything natural, from arborist’s wood chips that result from grinding cut trees to shredded leaves, grass clippings, manure, compost, pine straw or hay and more. If it’s a natural product from the earth, it’s OK by me. Spread it liberally and often. The results will be a better-looking and healthier landscape and garden.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT GARDEN CENTER

No matter how big or small your garden, there’s one thing I hope we’ll all do more of this year and beyond — support your local, independent garden centers. In the face of steep price competition from the box stores, many of the smaller nurseries and garden centers struggle to keep the doors open. With the increasing demand on the value of real estate, and the ever-increasing cost of operating a small business, we can’t afford to lose these valuable resources that provide such a unique benefit to all gardeners.

Nearly every independent garden center has something valuable to offer. Most are staffed with long-term, highly knowledgeable employees. They’re more often there for the love of gardening and the sharing of information, rather than the money. The plant and product offerings from local nurseries are often selected for the appropriateness to the region or local climate and usually far more interesting than the limited selections purchased for mass distribution at the box stores. These garden centers are often the place for educational classes, seminars, plant clinics and problem solving. Plus, they often work with and can offer reliable references to local contractors for landscape design, installation and maintenance. Without a doubt, price and convenience are important triggers in the buying process, but in my book, great service trumps the others. Independent garden centers are known for the latter.

Joe Lamp’l, host of “Growing a Greener World” on PBS, is a Master Gardener and author. For more information visit GrowingAGreenerWorld.com.

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