Good to Grow: Gardening thoughts for the new year

Let’s not call them resolutions, I’m really bad at keeping those. Let’s call them “garden thoughts for the new year.” These are January ideas to help keep me, and you, on track throughout the next 12 months — and hopefully beyond.

I guess since it is a new year I should start with the basics. Clean and organize your garden space. This doesn’t have to be a big overall, but take a look: Do you need to toss a few outdated seeds, calendars or magazines that have been accumulating in the corner?

Maybe you received garden gifts for Christmas. If so, now is the time to say goodbye to the gloves with holes in the fingers. (Yep, I have a few of those). By doing something as simple as straightening and arranging your bookshelf to include a garden section you can find inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, now is a good time to plan which gardens you will visit this year. It could be strolling through the closest park, but maybe it’s incorporating a garden tour into your next vacation.

I have a group of friends who go big and plan their European vacations around the gardens they want to visit. Me, I’m a little of both. There are a few local gardens I want to visit and a few that involve a road trip.

One that is somewhat in between, because my definition of a road trip involves lunch and snacks, is the West Virginia Botanic Garden in Morgantown. It’s in the state but requires a bit of planning.

Another interesting trip for gardeners is Bob’s Market & Greenhouses, Inc., in Mason, West Virginia. They are celebrating 50 years in business and are now one of the top greenhouses in the United States. I was lucky enough to tour their facility a few years ago, and it was amazing.

As you travel and read about other gardens, you will be broadening your knowledge — don’t forget to share what you learn. Maybe this means letting children get their hands dirty in the soil, and showing them how a tomato goes from a seed to a sandwich.

I had the chance to speak with a group of seniors, and we planted windowsill pots of lettuce and radishes. It was a fun afternoon and everyone left excited about their soon-to-be salad ingredients.

You don’t have to be an expert to pass along what you know. It could be a new neighbor with questions about frost times in the area, or an officemate learning to care for the plants received as a birthday gift. By talking about it, everybody learns something new.

Gardening can be strenuous and the payoffs can be grand. Share the work and share the bounty. Do you know someone who needs a little help trimming hedges? Staking and tying up tomato vines? Are they struggling to rake and bag the fall leaves? Lend a helping hand.

And when your garden is bountiful, share the rewards. Everyone loves a fresh-picked bouquet of flowers, or a handful of green onions just pulled from the ground. When your zucchini goes crazy, drop off the extra fresh veggies at a food bank.

Be brave and try a new plant. It could be introducing a new color into your flower bed, going tropical in containers or experimenting with new herbs for the garden and in the kitchen. Who knows, this could lead to a new favorite that you will plant for years to come. I’m still planning to plant lilac bushes; this is the year I will add them to my back garden.

This one I borrow from a friend. Only kill a plant twice. What? We’ve all done it: We see a beautiful plant in a magazine or greenhouse, bring it home and it’s dead in three weeks. Then, we go right back to the store the next year, or even the next week and buy it again.

Well, if you haven’t done it, I have, several times. I’ll save the story of the liriope I desperately tried to border by a garden stairway for another time. There are many reasons it may not last in the new environment, so a little research goes a long way in guaranteeing plant success.

Bet you can guess my last one: have fun. Gardening should be fun. Create a garden that is not all work and no play. It can be a potted garden indoors, containers on the condo deck or a garden border.

For me, the time spent in the garden provides the payoff of having a backdrop for afternoon naps, playtime with the pup and long evening chats with friends.

Happy New Year and happy gardening to all, and may your new year be in filled with possibilities and healthy plants.