Debbie Arrington

Garden resolutions for a more bountiful 2017

Juliet tomatoes are always prolific. They’re a sure bet for success in 2017.
Juliet tomatoes are always prolific. They’re a sure bet for success in 2017. File

Where did the year go?

As 2016 comes to an end, I find myself uttering that phrase like a mantra. I hurry to complete tasks, indoors and out, so I can at least keep my garden, if not the rest of my life, “on track.”

I know it’s a people thing. Nature doesn’t need a calendar to remind it when to drop leaves or sprout new ones. Perhaps hastened by weather, flowers bloom and whither on their own time.

It’s just us gardeners who get so caught up in seasonal schedules – while trying to persuade our plants to cooperate. We’re the ones who set deadlines and make goals. But to my roses, Jan. 1 will feel a lot like Dec. 31 – and they’ll still need pruning.

As we turn the page on another chapter, it’s time to reflect on accomplishments as well as what we want to get out of our gardens in the year to come. With that in mind, here are my garden resolutions for 2017:

▪ Keep a garden diary. Write down what I planted when – and where. So when time comes to figure out what grew well and what didn’t, I’m not searching for crib notes scribbled on seed packets or nursery receipts.

▪ Make new garden labels – and a new map. Weather has wiped away the writing on most of my metal markers. And since the last time I made a map of my flower beds, some rose bushes have died and been replaced. Asters have meandered from one side of the Mediterranean mound to the other. Bulbs could be anywhere.

▪ Divide and conquer. Crowded flower beds are overpacked with perennials and flowering bulbs. Pretty but relentless, the bright orange crocosmia is a thug, choking out primroses and peonies. The bearded irises have stopped blooming; they need to be re-situated and revived. It’s time to dig a lot of things up and redistribute.

▪ Take out more lawn. Those extra perennials and bulbs need to go somewhere. They’ll use less water than turf, too.

▪ Work on smarter irrigation. While recent rain washed away thoughts of drought, come summer, that dry reality will be back. It’s time to set up a climate sensor, fix driplines and take a serious look at plants’ water needs. I know my hydrangeas suffered in 2016.

▪ Plant tomatoes earlier. Due to changing weather patterns, the last weekend in April – Sacramento’s traditional tomato planting date – may be too late for the best yield. In 2016, tomatoes planted in late March were much more productive.

▪ Plant varieties with high yields. Space (with full sun) is too precious in my little veggie garden to put up with heirloom vines that bear just one tomato or one melon. Instead, I’ll stick with what’s prolific such as Juliet, Early Girl and Big Boy tomatoes; those varieties filled a lot of canning jars this year.

▪ Create a garden scrapbook. Sure, I take loads of digital photos of my flowers and veggies, but how many do I actually print out? Filled with memories of summer days and (hopefully) bountiful harvests, such a scrapbook would bring warm smiles on cold winter days.

▪ Make time to smell the roses. That’s why I planted so many varieties; I love their beauty and fragrance. In 2017, I resolve to bring more bouquets indoors. So even if I can’t spend as much time as I’d like outdoors, I can still appreciate the garden’s beauty – and feel inspired to garden more.